Seven out of 10 local governments in New South Wales’ largest coal producing area, the Hunter Region, have now joined Australia’s largest local government climate action network, the Cities Power Partnership, after Lake Macquarie City Council, Port Stephens Council and Cessnock City Council yesterday joined existing members MidCoast Council, Upper Hunter Shire Council, Muswellbrook Shire and City of Newcastle.
Created by the Climate Council, the free national program requires local councils to make five climate action pledges in either renewable energy, efficiency, transport or partnerships, which councils have six months to finalise and can range from dozens of options, i.e. putting solar on libraries, switching to electric buses, and opening up old landfills for new solar farms.
The initiative also emphasises collaboration between participants through their Knowledge Hub, which includes: a resource library; access to online tool Azility to help track emissions, energy and cost savings; and an online forum where councils can share knowledge with other councils.
Announcing the move, Lake Macquarie Mayor Cr Kay Fraser highlighted that the program will help accelerate the local government’s newly-adopted Environmental Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan, which has a goal for the council to become 100% renewable and for 80% of their residents to use more renewable energy, more active transport and conserve water.
“So far, we’ve installed solar panels across 27 council buildings, rolled out 5600 LED streetlights and are encouraging renewable energy uptake in our community,” Fraser said.
Similarly, Mayor of Port Stephens Council, Ryan Palmer cited the council’s work rolling out solar on council buildings and restoring bushland, as well as a Sustainability Action Plan that will “set clear emission reduction and renewable energy targets to create a strong, clean local economy.” Cessnock Mayor Bob Pynsent noted it aligned with the government’s recently adopted Climate Change Policy and “will facilitate the sharing of knowledge with like-minded councils”.
“Right now, local governments have an opportunity to accelerate projects that will deliver local jobs quickly and tackle long-term challenges like climate change,” Cities Power Partnership acting director Dr Portia Odel said. “It’s brilliant to see more regional councils sign up to the program to help deliver a safer climate and stronger economy for their communities.”
The announcement and accompanying projects not only offers an interesting glimpse of the transition of coal communities to clean energy jobs — see also Newcastle, which last year voted to shift to 100% renewables — but comes as the Morrison government uses the impending closure of AGL’s Liddell power station, located in Muswellbrook Shire, to push for a 1,000 megawatt “Dispatchable Energy Target“.