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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Address to: The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) 1997 National General Assembly of Local Government


Canberra
25 November 1997

Councillor John Campbell (President of the ALGA), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen :

As you know, the Prime Minister last week announced the most far-reaching package of policy measures ever put forward by any Australian government to address climate change.

It provides an unprecedented boost to renewable energy and energy efficiency, and paves the way for significant and lasting reductions in greenhouse emissions in all sectors of Australian society.

I want to focus on the component of the package which has received relatively little media attention, but which has major implications for Local Government.

Local Government and the Environment:

Before I talk about this particular issue, however, I want to acknowledge the backdrop a little, because Climate Change is no different to many other environmental issues in the sense that Local Government has a pivotal role.

In fact, in many ways, it is your administrations which deal most directly with protecting and managing the Australian environment -- not just with respect to issues of local significance, but also to environmental problems of national or international relevance.

For example, fostering cleaner production and greater recycling by industry and by households is a national priority as well as a local issue.

On issues of land management, and protection of air and freshwater water quality, as well as marine and coastal settings, Local government plays a significant role in not only enhancing the local environment, but also in contributing to national goals for biodiversity conservation and environmental quality generally.

The vital contribution by your communities to national environmental priorities has been further recognised and enhanced through initiatives funded through the Natural Heritage Trust.

One of the reasons Local government can be so successful in addressing environmental problems is that it deals directly with the community, and as such it particularly well-placed to develop fruitful and cost-effective partnerships with community groups.

Local Government & Climate Change:

Climate change is one of the more formidable environmental threat confronting the world, a major obstacle for the national government and the national economy, and an issue which involves, and poses major implications for the behaviour of, all Australian communities, and the people living in them.

As such, action is required at all levels of the Australian community -- local authorities will have an especially crucial role. It is no secret that both here and overseas, some of the most successful greenhouse emission reduction initiatives are implemented at the local level.

And with local government having direct influence over more than 50% of Australia's greenhouse emissions, there is clearly great potential for your councils to provide a significant positive boost to Australia's overall performance as part of the global greenhouse response.

The reason local government participation is so important is that your administrative reach extends so directly into so many areas of relevance to greenhouse emission generation.

In the residential sector, you can have a substantial influence on housing design and major appliance selection, along with waste management and recycling activities.

In the transport sector, you have significant powers with respect to the nature and operation of public transport, the provision of car parking, the management of local traffic.

In terms of sequestering carbon to reduce our net emissions, you have the power to protect existing vegetation in your jurisdictions, and to facilitate the revegetation of public lands.

And you have the authority to provide training and to put into place regulations and incentives which encourage local industries to be more efficient in their use of energy, and reward them for reducing emissions.

Launch of Cities for Climate Protection Australia:

It is this recognition by the Commonwealth that Local Government holds one of the keys to successful emission reduction that underlies the Prime Minister's announcements last week to which I will now turn.

Earlier this year, at the Pathways to Sustainability Conference in Newcastle, where many of you were present, I announced the introduction in Australia of the Cities for Climate Protection program, which has been so successful overseas.

Following the Prime Minister's statement, I am pleased to formally launch a greatly expanded Cities for Climate Protection program will be the centre-piece of a vastly enhanced role for Local Government in Australia's domestic response to Climate Change.

It was our original intention to provide enable 30 Australian local authorities to participate in the current pilot program, and we allocated $215,000 for that purpose.

As part of the initiatives announced last week's, we are setting an ambitious target of 300 councils participating in the Cities for Climate Protection by 2003.

In order to facilitate this, funding will increase more than 60-fold to $13 million -- and the program will be one of many new greenhouse measures administered by the newly formed Commonwealth Greenhouse Office, within my Department.

The Commonwealth will be taking an increased leadership role, reflecting the national priority of greenhouse response. To complement the Commonwealth oversight of the program and facilitate broader implementation, state based Project Managers will be appointed to implement the program around the country.

Like the pilot program, "Cities for Climate Protection Australia," as the expanded program will be known, will involve close partnership between Environment Australia, the Australian Local Government Association, Environs Australia and the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).

The enhanced program will build on the pilot program and in setting up the administrative arrangements for the new funding, I will be assessing the operation of the pilot - its strengths, timeliness and effectiveness.

Our aim is to assist hundreds of local authorities to identify emissions from their own operations and their communities - and then to develop action plans to reduce these emissions.

It is similar in approach to the already very successful Greenhouse Challenge program, it will be tailor made for local government - to the in house activity and policy making of local governments and to their dealings with their communities.

Involvement in program requires completion of 5 milestones

  1. Compilation of an emissions inventory for the council and the community
  2. A credible forecast future emissions
  3. The establishment an emissions reduction target
  4. The development of a local action plan, and the
  5. Implementation of agreed policies and measures
The success of the similar ICLEI-run programs overseas provides a taste of what we can achieve through Cities for Climate Protection Australia.

The international program as been running for 4 years, now involving 178 participants account for 5% of global CO2 emissions. 53 participants have established reduction targets, which in aggregate would reduce emissions to 98 million tonnes of CO2 below 1990 levels.

In addition to reducing CO2 emissions reductions locally, participants have enjoyed reductions in operating costs, the creation of new jobs through supporting energy efficiency businesses, improvements in air quality and public health, and enhancements in urban liveability and comfort

Results have been dramatic. For example:

Portland, Oregon implemented a business assistance program that provided technical assistance to 300 local businesses and helped them reduce emissions by more than 25,000 tonnes per year, and also adopted a new residential building code which saw energy use in newly constructed homes fall by 35%.

There is also considerable scope for action by Australian councils. Most councils have already been undertaking actions that reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Valuable work is already being done -- whether it be:

By expanding the Cities for Climate Protection pilot program there is enormous scope to build much further on this progress. We encourage all councils to consider joining the program, and we are particularly keen to see a wide geographic spread of participation.

Project managers are currently visiting interested councils and making presentations - to register your interest, contact the project managers - they have a stand in the conference exhibition.

I am pleased to report that 10 councils are already at the political declaration stage and a further 10 have shown great interest in the program.

The first step to become involved in the program is to make a political declaration. The project managers will help to develop a proposal to put forward to your council. Once on the program, you receive:

So, there are plenty of very good reasons for joining the program, and we strongly urge Assembly participants to do so, in order that enjoy the same benefits that other local governments and communities have already, and become part of a highly successful worldwide program.

Methane Capture and Reuse Workbook:

Before Closing, I want to mention another project the Commonwealth has supported which will help local government is a workbook on methane capture and reuse which I am also happy to launch today.

As shown in the Newcastle example I mentioned earlier, methane emissions can be a large proportion of a local government's emissions which can potentially be avoided. The workbook assists those who manage liquid and solid organic wastes in both the private and public sector.

It demonstrates how to quantify greenhouse emissions from waste disposal, and outlines options available to capture and beneficially reuse the methane produced from decomposition of this waste.

Copies will be available at the Cities for Climate Protection booth or from my Department.

Conclusion:

In closing, this is a very important day in the relationship between Local Government and the Commonwealth.

The program I have outlined today is, we believe, the beginning of a dramatic and lasting improvement in Australia's greenhouse emissions picture, an improvement will be more effective than any other program in harnessing the enthusiasm of ordinary Australians and their communities in a united response to Climate Change.

It is only through this appreciation of the problem and appreciation of the need to act at the grass-roots level that Australia can succeed in the ultimate goal of reducing its greenhouse emissions

The federal government recognises that this can only be achieved with the help of Local Government, and by allocation $13 million to Cities for Climate Protection Australia, we are laying the foundation for the most effective possible Local Government involvement.

We look forward to your support as we jointly work towards the same goal.

Commonwealth of Australia