Shepparton leaders respond to climate change challenge

By John Lewis

During the next few weeks, The News will run a series of interviews with community leaders about their views on climate change.

We asked four questions:

1: What is your position on global warming and climate change?

2: Are we doing enough to mitigate the impact of climate change in the region?

3: Do community and business leaders have a role in advocating for more action, and positioning our region to take advantage of emerging opportunities?

4: What is your Number One priority to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Today we feature the responses of Greater Shepparton City Council chief executive Peter Harriott.

Position on global warming and climate change.

I would firstly like to point out that these are my personal views not necessarily those of the council. The evidence has been with us for many years, the International Panel on Climate Change reports are the appropriate reference source for the scientific facts and they indicate that by 2050 the earth’s temperature is on track to increase by at least 1.5 degrees and that rising sea levels will have major impacts on our coastal regions and urban port cities.

Recent reports indicate that our mitigation measures are not providing the turnaround required and that the temperature increases could be higher if we do not take significant action.

The Pope's Encyclical, “On Care of our Common Home” accepts the IPCC science and calls for “swift and unified global action” and also calls upon us to take care of mother earth in general.

Proposed mitigation measures for global warming and climate change are all measures that have an ability to utilise modern technology, provide positive economic activity, promote research and provide for a healthier planet and lifestyle.

Many still seem wedded to ideological and political positions that don’t relate to where smart entrepreneurs are already taking us and making the economics of climate friendly solutions work.

Are we doing enough?

No. Much more needs to be done and quicker. Often it is said "hold the role sustainable energy sources" because we do not have the network capability to handle this new form of energy.

When we transformed from horse and cart to the automobile Henry Ford didn’t wait or have much interest in traffic lights or road construction.

Others developed expertise in these aspects of modern transport and rapidly found the solutions.

The solutions for sustainable network connections are known and being rolled out already.

It seems the leadership for change to a better way of life is varied.

South Australia has lead the way, the ACT has set zero-emission targets and the Victorian Government has ambitious sustainable energy targets.

The Federal Government is funding environmental issues including pumped hydro.

Local government is transitioning to 100 per cent sustainable power and most councils in Victoria will reach this target when existing contracts run out over the next couple of years.

This will mean that local government will not be using coal-fired power in the very short term.

And why will this be the case, it’s good for the environment and a cheaper whole-of-life source of power.

At Greater Shepparton among a range of actions we have just purchased two 100 per cent electric vehicles, which are charged from the power generated by our roof-top solar panels.

We aim to convert our whole vehicle fleet within three years.

This represents 20 per cent of our emissions and will see a significant reduction in fossil fuel purchases.

Do community and business leaders have a role in advocating for more action?

Yes they do and they are already advocating in their actions.

Several businesses in Greater Shepparton have taken up Environmental Upgrade Agreements, which is a means of funding sustainable energy installations to assist in providing greater reliability into their power source and also reducing their energy costs, which are the major cost components for a lot of our local businesses.

Council has partnered with GV Community Energy to do a large-scale solar development at the GV Link site and this is an example of community-driven action, which others are learning from and following.

Community in the form of youth are obviously active in advocating for more action and in this regard I encourage anyone to go to the site and observe what the youth of Greater Shepparton are saying in relation to climate change.

Things like "it’s time to act", "we cannot wait". These comments come from those who will lead our community in the future and those who have to live and deal with the climate of the future and should be listened to.

Number one priority to mitigate climate change.

I refer to a recent Harvard Kennedy school publication Our one earth where six experts in climate and energy answered a similar question.

The answers were, immediate and deep cuts to CO2 emissions, carbon pricing, assistance for developing countries, science-based policy, improved funding for research and education, rapid transition to solar energy transport systems.

From these I would say carbon pricing as most economists will say that this is the most effective and cost efficient means of funding climate action.

The reality is of course that this does not win elections for some reason and therefore the major political parties are not willing to go down this path at the moment.

The usual argument is that this will price our industry out of business if it is not introduced across the world.

I look at it differently and note that banks will soon not lend unless businesses or development proposals have sound environmental practices and insurance companies will not provide cover unless developments relate to and understand the environment, this is particularly so for coastal development.

If we were to take a lead in carbon pricing and drive innovation the world would observe and want to learn from us and invest in our carbon free ways.

Therefore if carbon pricing is too hard the practical number one priority is for individuals to take action, for the youth to take action, for families to take action, for businesses and local government to take action and have a ground-up push for change that ignores the policy vacuum that exists at some levels at the moment.