Victorian council recognised for environment leadership

Climate change is the number one challenge councils are facing today, according to a Victorian mayor.

Bayside City Council was recognised for its commitment to climate change at The National Federation Awards last week and presented with the award for Environmental Leadership and Sustainability.

The awards, hosted by Local Government Professionals Australia, showcases innovative solutions by Australian local councils.

Alex del Porto

Council mayor Alex del Porto said the award highlights Council’s long-term commitment to tackling climate change, which began in 2008.

“We committed to carbon neutrality by 2020, which we achieved; we were the first council in the Melbourne South East to do so,” he told Government News.

“My view is that climate change is probably the number one challenge that all councils have.”

Council has installed solar panels on Council-owned and managed buildings and now has nearly 1,500 panels on 48 buildings.

It is currently diverting 60 per cent of its waste from landfills through its food and green waste recycling service, with food waste being transformed into compost for Victorian farmers.

“My view is that climate change is probably the number one challenge that all councils have.” Alex del Porto, Mayor of Bayside City Council

Lessons learnt

However, Council hasn’t gone about it alone, Mr del Porto said.

“You could do wonderful things as a council… but that makes up a small percentage of the emission that we produce at Bayside, the great amount is produced by residents.

“The residents in Bayside and the councillors in Bayside are very, very aware of the emergency that we’re facing.”

For other councils interested in tackling climate change, Mr del Porto said it is important to invest in it.

“I would advise all council to try to save their money to be able to spend it on climate change issues because I think it’s not going to go away,” he said.

“So, it might be a bit dearer to get into the right carbon offsets, but I don’t think there’s any choice.”

Solar panels on a council building (Image supplied by Bayside City Council)

Next target

Two weeks ago, Council voted to set a target to reduce Bayside’s community greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2035 or earlier.

Mr del Porto understands this is an ambitious target but believes it is possible.

“We believe that through education, communication and the increased awareness that residents at Bayside have about the climate change problem…we’ll be able to reduce those emissions by about six to eight per cent a year,” he said.  

Beginning in June next year, Council will also make changes to its bin collection service, combining its food and compost bins into one bin to be collected weekly, with the general waste bins to be collected fortnightly.

Council is hoping this will reduce the amount of methane gas it produces.

“We are really proud of our track record…I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but we will do our very best on our end and we are hoping that our residents will follow us,” Mr del Porto said.

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