Climate change and you

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1. Overview

Indigo Shire is committed to both mitigating and adapting to climate change when delivering services and maintaining assets into the future. 

It has two important documents to guide its decision making:

2. Climate Emergency

In July 2019, Indigo Shire became one of the first local government organisations in Victoria to declare a climate emergency.

Council recognises that a well-planned approach to responding to a climate emergency requires engagement with key stakeholders and appropriate resources. 

At its October 2019 Council meeting, it was resolved to develop a series of recommendations to integrate strong mitigation, adaptation and advocacy measures across all Council services.

The key stakeholder consultations planned for earlier this year were delayed due to Coronavirus restrictions and is now proceeding online.

Climate Change Policy

Below is a themed summary of the 41 submissions received in response to publication of Indigo Shire Council's Climate Change Policy in July 2019.

In summary, responses called for:

  1. A policy with tangible and measurable actions as its central focus.
  2. A bold and meaningful policy with ambitious targets.
  3. A policy that enables community members to feel their individual contributions are part of a broader collaborative response.

Key feedback and recommendations to Indigo Shire

Include high level measurable targets and objectives as part of the Climate Change Policy.

Suggestions from respondents including hard targets such as:

  • Council to purchase electricity from 100% renewable sources by 2020
  • Transition council vehicle fleet to electric vehicles by 2022
  • Set targets for rooftop solar on 70% of houses in Indigo by 2025
  • Develop and implement a sustainable procurement policy and introduction of ethical purchasing policy

Offer incentives

Explore the use of incentives to enable residents to engage with implementing the policy, such as:

  • Introduce special rates charges to install solar/batteries on pensioners' and low socio-economic residents’ homes
  • Introduce climate change levy on rates notices as a 'fighting fund’ to support climate adaptation and mitigation strategies as they arise
  • Implement initiatives within the planning framework in farming and rural living zones to promote carbon sequestration and revegetation
  • Encourage new industries that could convert our waste into useful products e.g. plastic bottles into gardening products, methane from landfills into energy.

Commit to global and local partnership

Improve local and regional partnerships that support Indigo’s targets:

  • Indigo council to become a signatory to 'Z-Net towns' initiative
  • Improve connectivity with local community groups to ensure expert advice is received concerning local issues e.g. Landcare for revegetation, renewable energy groups for input to renewables planning, local ag for food security
  • Implement broad climate change education program for all council staff to ensure familiarity with policy and commitment to practice change.

Clear communications

 Feedback indicated the need for clear and consistent messages around the policy and its implementation. Use of more direct, stronger language:

  • Avoid motherhood statements and go beyond passive language of mitigation’, 'adaptation' and 'partnerships’ to innovation and leadership
  • Update website/publications to use current, strong consistent language and reference to action.  Rather than aiming to 'progress transition to carbon neutrality' instead ‘Council is committed to using 100% locally generated renewable energy by 2025'
  • Use of language to emphasise the urgency of the response e.g. 'climate emergency’.

Leading the community

It is also vital that Council recognise the power and importance of its voice in advocating to all levels of government and supporting the considerable efforts of its local community for action on climate change. At a local level leadership could include:

  • Promote backyard food gardening; the growing of suitable trees that provide shade during hot summers, shelter for distressed birdlife, and a buffer against bushfires
  • Focus on revegetation of suitable sites
  • Support responses to climate change that respond to its impacts and build community resilience
  • Open cool refuges during hot days with systems to identify the vulnerable and transport them to relief
  • Support local food security programs.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Key feedback included:

  • Establish an evaluation framework with clear targets based on current and future data, details of how the reductions would be achieved, and who has the responsibility and authority to ensure the elements of the policy will be enacted
  • Incorporate a process to monitor the implementation of the policy (every 6-12 months) to gauge policy effectiveness, before the formal review in 2022-23.
  • Ensure that any actions are adequately funded.

 

 

 

Climate change related projects as of May 2020

Completed Projects

Solar installations

  • 18 Council and community buildings, totaling ~135kW capacity
  • Grid connect battery installed via grant at Beechworth Memorial Hall complex. 
  • Beechworth Transfer Station – standalone power system with battery.

Solar installations scoped: Rutherglen Council/library office, Beechworth Senior Citizens building, Beechworth Indigo Shire Council Pines building and Chiltern Athenaeum.

Energy efficient lighting upgrades

  • Council (Category P) 80W Mercury Vapour Street Lights (Major Project)
  • Beechworth Council Office - The Pines
  • Yackandandah Senior Citizens 
  • Yackandandah Public Hall – Community driven project
  • Beechworth Council Depot
  • Yackandandah Council Depot
  • Rutherglen Council Depot

Hot Water Upgrades

  • Tangambalanga Swimming Pool
  • Beechworth Child Care
  • Beechworth Kinder
  • Yackandandah Kinder

Environmental Upgrade Agreement/Finance

Passed a resolution to allow Indigo Shire businesses to access low interest loans collected via rates for environmental improvement projects. One business has applied for finance so far.

Victorian senate inquiry into tackling climate change in Victorian communities

Submission lodged in 2019. Mayor, Cr O’Connor and Deputy Mayor Cr Price represented Indigo Shire and its communities at the Inquiry roadshow - Local Government Round Table on 13 February 2020. 

Plasticwise Policy

Council passed a Plasticwise policy in 2018. Council provided seed funding for the Dish Pig project developed by Plasticwise Yackandandah. A ‘better practice at events’ information tool has been developed to assist event organisers in reducing plastic and other wastes at events. A series of bin signage has also been developed. Currently investigating the use of the signage at Shire swimming pools to reduce contamination.

Emissions reduction target

Net zero by 2035 is the target set in the Environment Strategy 2019. 

Climate Change Policy 

Adopted 2016 and reviewed 2019. All reports to Council by staff must consider the policy.

Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan 

2016 project to work with staff to identify service risks as a result of climate change and plan adaptation actions. Requires review. 

Solar Savers  

Indigo Shire joined a collaborative local government project to offer professional, unbiased evaluations of home-owners’ patterns of electricity use, to better understand if solar panels were a good fit. Where applicable, a value for money solar solution via low interest loans was offered. All procurement was managed via the project for the customer.  

Projects - In Progress/Ongoing

Electric vehicles

  • Regional LG procurement feasibility study and business case. Collaborative ‘Charging the Regions’ project - focusing on EV infrastructure in the north east.  
  • Recommendation to Council to purchase one electric vehicle 
  • Council has an electric bike for staff use to cut down on vehicle trips. 

Support to community energy groups

  • Partnering with TRY to gain a $150,000 New Energy Jobs Fund grant for a project officer to generate a business case for a community energy retailer. This resulted in Indigo Power. In-kind support and community event hosting for the formation of Totally Renewable Yackandandah, Totally Renewable Beechworth and Totally Renewable Indigo North 
  • In-kind and grant application support to all community energy groups
  • 2040 movie screening partnership 
  • Educational event co-hosting 

Local Government renewables power purchase agreement

Partnering with about 40 local governments across Victoria to procure large scale renewable power from which to purchase our electricity. This is an alternative to having solar panels on all Council owned buildings and overcomes constraints re: heritage and shading. Due to commence 2021. 

Solar farms

Constrained by grid infrastructure. Some preliminary work with Indigo Power and Council to consider leasing the former Chiltern landfill site for a community owned solar farm. No other Indigo Shire owned land parcels suitable.

Carbon Crunching Councils

Shared services agreement for an emissions data management platform. Next step is to collate data, to generate our baseline emissions profile. This will occur in 2020. 

Emissions reduction plan

$20,000 allocated to work with a consultant to generate an emissions reduction plan later in 2020. 

Community Facilities Energy Upgrade Grant

$20,00 per year grant pool for energy efficiency upgrades (including solar) on community buildings. Commenced in 2019.

National Tree Planting Day

Approximately 4,000 trees are ordered annually for National Tree Planting Day. Landcare groups and schools across the shire will participate in the event in July.

Projects - Planned/funded to commence in future

Emissions reduction plan

The Request for Quotation for appointing a consultant to develop an emissions profile for ISC (corporate emissions) and supporting action plan has been completed and will be distributed in 2020.

Tree planting on unused Council land for carbon offsets 

This has not been specifically investigated yet, but for a similar project an analysis of all Council owned blocks of land for biodiversity offsets has been completed. 

Projects - Not yet investigated

Selling Buller Gas

Council owns the Buller Gas operation – it could be sold to fund the Environment Strategy Action Plan or Climate emergency action plan (to be developed). No detailed work on this option has been undertaken since the declaration. Buller Gas is a very profitable asset for ISC, generating a profit of $500,000 per year. Council has a lease for a further 36 years.

A rate-cap variation to fund environmental initiatives

Applying for such a variation involves several steps, including consultation with the community about whether they will accept paying more rates to fund these actions.

 

 

 

Historic Corporate Emissions Data

Currently, Indigo Shire Council does not have a carbon emissions profile.

An emissions profile would tell us how the different functions of Council contribute to corporate carbon emissions, informing the most effective reduction activities. 

In themselves emissions profiles or targets do not reduce a single tonne of emissions. It is on-the-ground action that gets results. They do however provide valuable tools to allow for identification of opportunities, informed decision making and strategic allocation of budget.

Even without knowing the Council’s current emission profile, we can easily identify common actions that reduce carbon emissions.

By looking at similar sized rural councils across the state and referring to historic reporting we can make assumptions about what the Indigo Shire emissions profile may look like if it were accurately mapped. As you can see in the pie chart below from 2005 - 06, it is likely that the sectors that produce the most carbon are building, streetlighting and fleet (see image below for what is included in these sectors).

Actions that target the big-ticket items within Council buildings, public lighting and vehicle emissions, therefore have great potential for reducing Council’s overall carbon footprint.

A carbon emission profile will be completed for Indigo Shire Council in 2020 to establish baseline data. 

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Additional notes:

Streetlights (36.4%) - Council has undertaken work on streetlighting with the LED upgrade on 100% costed mercury vapour lamps, which will alter the emissions data on streetlighting and therefore the emissions profile of different sectors.   

Buildings (37.2%) includes the operation of five public swimming pools.

Community Emissions Data

While it is a priority for Council to accurately map its corporate emissions profile and develop an emissions reduction plan, council also acknowledges its role in supporting community emissions reduction.

 

 

 

 

3. Greenhouse alliance

Council is also an active  participant  and  member  of  the Goulburn-Broken Greenhouse  Alliance (GBGA) and has signed up to TAKE2. The GBGA is a collaboration of local governments and state government agencies, working on projects to collectively act on climate change.

Visit the GBGA website for more information.

4. Renewable energy, solar power and batteries

We encourage and support our residents to explore opportunities to use the power of the sun to generate renewable energy. Producing  your  own  renewable  energy  by  installing  solar  photovoltaic  (PV)  panels  is  a  great  way  to  reduce  your  electricity  bills  and  carbon  footprint. 

In a typical home with solar panels, part or all of your energy usage may be met by solar generation while the sun is shining. Any excess solar energy is exported to the grid. Shortfalls, most often experienced in the evening and overnight, are met by importing electricity from the grid.

You can take it one step further by adding a battery. When you add a battery to a rooftop solar system or install a battery and rooftop solar panels together in a new system, the excess solar energy not used at home during the day is used to charge the battery.  There are various battery storage products available that have a wide range of functionality and performance.

5. Community action on renewables

Indigo Shire is home to active community renewable energy groups, including Totally Renewable Yackandandah and Totally Renewable Beechworth. Contact these groups for more information if you are interested in getting involved.