Shire plans action to combat ‘emergency’

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MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire’s youngest councillor, Sam Hearn has stood in houses flooded by storms that come now annually instead of once in 100 years.

Cr Hearn last week gave a graphic account of the effects of climate change already being felt on the Mornington Peninsula when urging his colleagues to declare that the municipality is in the grip of a “climate emergency”.

He says residents are removing tonnes of plastic waste from some beaches while other beaches are being lost to rising seawaters.

“We are studying the effects of climate change inundation at Balnarring Beach, I’ve stood in homes with residents and shire engineers that are being regularly inundated … we pay for and maintain the vast majority of the drains that cope with storm surges, our community services teams care for the elderly in their homes as find them in distress during the growing heat waves …”

He said the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report “states that as a global community, we could have just 12 years left to implement meaningful actions to limit a climate change catastrophe”.

“It’s time to stop thinking about climate change and start taking urgent, significant action,” Cr Hearn said.

Council’s unanimous decision to declare a climate emergency was applauded by a packed public gallery at council’s Tuesday 13 August meeting.

While a climate emergency is a call for immediate and urgent action to reverse global warming, it will have little effect globally without the backing and actions of state and federal governments (“Peninsula declares ‘climate emergency’” The News 13/8/19).

However, the move does see the shire join 840 local governments across 18 countries in recognising the damage climate change is causing to economies and environments.

The shire has called on the state and federal governments to also declare a climate emergency backed by legislated programs.

As a result of the climate emergency decision, the shire will develop an action plan setting targets, outcomes, estimated budgets and timeframes.

Cr Simon Brooks said the IPCC showed “we have two years to get our policies and strategies in place – we have a further 10 years to action these in full”.

The mayor David Gill said council was calling on the nation to “join the fight for our planet”.

“We’ll do everything we can to address and mitigate climate change at a local level but it’s going to take action from the state and federal government to make a real difference,” he said.

He said political preferences should be set aside “for the sake of our environment and the future of our next generation”.

Cr Hugh Fraser, who raised a notice of motion, said the peninsula is subject to higher risk of extreme storm events, sea level rise and coastal erosion as a result of climate change.

“This climate change emergency resolution will give fresh momentum to council’s resolved commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021.”

In 2015 the CSIRO predicted climate impacts for the greater Melbourne region of increased temperatures; more frequent and intense downpours; rising sea levels; warmer and more acidic seas; more hot days and warm spells; less rainfall in winter and spring; harsher fire weather and longer fire seasons and increased frequency.

For details of what the shire is doing to tackle climate change go to mornpen.vic.gov.au/climatechange

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 20 August 2019

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