ALTHOUGH now into the sixth year of a five-year plan to achieve “carbon neutrality”, Mornington Peninsula Shire dropped $200,000 from its $273 million budget earmarked to buy credits from “offset” projects.
Cr Kerri McCafferty criticised some of her colleagues for claiming credits previously bought by the shire involved “fraudulent activity”.
“But we’re not buying offsets from poorly regulated rogue projects,” she said during council’s Tuesday 7 June budget meeting. “We’re buying them through the federal government’s accreditation system, Climate Active.”
McCafferty said the credits came with a guarantee that each one “corresponds to one tonne of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. It’s no trick”.
The Climate Change – Carbon Neutral policy adopted on 8 February 2016 said the shire “will provide robust and tangible leadership on climate change, with carbon neutrality as its central achievement”. “This shire will seek formal carbon neutral accreditation from the federal government’s National Carbon Offset Standard – Carbon Neutral Program within five years of the adoption of this policy and continue to maintain this accreditation.”
McCafferty said the $200,000 should be included in the 2022/23 budget “to maintain that carbon neutral policy and a review of the policy”.
“I have heard the views of my colleagues … including allegation of fraudulent activity regarding certain offset projects and the prioritisation of local action and that offsets are just some kind of underhanded accounting trick to greenwash council,” she said.
“The assurance of Climate Active is good enough for the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, National Australia Bank, Future Super, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Planet Ark, KPMG, Suisse and the Sydney opera House and thousands of others across Australia. Climate Active’s accreditation is good enough for us too.
“I’ve heard concerns we should focus on local projects, and I don’t dispute that, in fact our existing carbon neutral policy already addresses this.
“Reducing our own emissions is our first priority. And we already prioritise local carbon credits when that’s a viable option.
“At the moment, today, there aren’t any locally produced carbon credits to purchase.”
McCafferty said local carbon credits may be available next year and told her colleagues not to “let perfect be the enemy of the good”.
“I accept the science of global warming,” she said. “The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report tells us that the planet we’re living on is heading towards irreparable damage.”
She said it would be impossible to stop the thermal expansion of oceans or re-freeze melting ice caps.
McCafferty said the changes being wrought by climate change were permanent and presented an “existential threat to human civilisation” with “our children and our grandchildren will ultimately be the ones to pay the price”.
Although backed by Crs David Gill, Despi O’Connor, Sarah Race and Antonella Celi, McCafferty’s move to reinstate the $200,000 in the budget was lost, with Crs Steve Holland, Paul Mercurio, Lisa Dixon, Susan Bissinger, Debra Mar and the mayor Anthony Marsh voting against.