WOLLONGONG City Council have responded to claims by the Wilderness Society Illawarra (WSI) that its draft budget 2017-2018, currently on public exhibition, has “ignored the financial risks of climate change”.
WSI spokesman Stephen Young said the draft budget states under general assumptions that “potential eventualities [from climate change] have not been specifically included in current forecasts”.
Mr Young says is this is a “head-in-the-sand approach” to climate change. Mr Young said council cannot claim to be fit for the future if they ignore climate change risk.
“We are already seeing increased damage from storms and rising sea levels,” he said.
“Council has a duty to prepare for the future and to provide leadership on climate chang.”
WSI has called on councillors to demonstrate leadership in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Mr Young said while there are some worthwhile measures in the 2017-2018 budget such as investigating landfill gas management, and Solar PV on buildings, there is a notable lack of a whole organisational approach. For example, he said the annual budget should set a target for carbon emissions from Council’s operations across all areas, and require all areas of Council to report on measures taken to achieve the target.
WSI is seeking a meeting with the Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbury to request that climate change is more seriously addressed in the budget.
A Council spokesperson said it is working across a number of areas to consider the risk of climate change and this is referenced in a number of key Council documents, including its Community Strategic Plan, Wollongong 2022.
“In terms of financial preparedness for climate risks, Council has made provision for this through its Available Funds (funds which Council has earned but are not allocated against a specific project),” the spokesperson said.
“Available Funds are outlined in Council’s Financial Strategy and we aim to maintain between 3.5 and 5 per cent of pre-capital operational revenue to act as a buffer for unanticipated future costs. The Strategy also references that over the next five years and beyond, one of the key challenges Council will face is ‘managing any future demands associated with climate change’.’’
Away from these immediate financial considerations, Council says it has assessed risks to its services and infrastructure and prepared its Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan, which was partly funded by the Australian Government’s Local Adaptation Pathways Program.
“This Plan was in response to Council’s acknowledgement that climate change could damage community assets, disrupt the delivery of Council services and have a financial impact,” the spokesperson said.
“We’ve already introduced a wide range of projects to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. These actions are outlined in our Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2013-2022, and include implementing the sustainable buildings strategy where we reduce the water and energy use in our top 20 user buildings (including the Administration Building) and preparing the Wollongong Coastal Zone Management Plan. This draft Plan has been prepared and submitted to the State Government for endorsement late last year.
“At a practical level, we’re taking a wide range of steps. For example, this month we’re carrying out preparation works at Dapto Ribbonwood Centre for the installation of a Solar Photovoltaic System. These PV systems are also to be installed at Beaton Park Leisure Centre, Corrimal, Bulli and Windang Tourist Parks and on a new facility at the Wollongong Waste and Resource Recovery Centre. We also harvest methane at the Whytes Gully Waste and Resource Recovery Park, and have upgraded Council’s Administration Building to become the first government building in Australia to achieve a Five Star Green Star Performance rating.”