Government’s everywhere are being asked to back up their expansive claims on emissions reduction targets. Perhaps it’s time for Noosa Council to do the same.
With the recent release of Council’s annual report, we have yet another document that restates Council’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2026 without providing any information as to how we are going to get there, let alone whether we are on track or whether the objective is in fact even achievable.
Noosa Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, making a strong statement in support of acting on climate change. In recognition of the risks posed by a changing climate, Council became the first local government in Queensland to declare a climate emergency, to drive the urgent and sustained responses needed to address climate change. Net zero emissions by 2026 was a key objective.
Surveys consistently show there is an appetite within the Noosa community for measures to combat the effects of climate change, including measures to reduce emissions. To secure ongoing community support, Council and its partner organisations need to explain to the community the extent to which the goal of net zero emissions by 2026, is achievable; more importantly the community needs to know what further measures need to be taken to achieve this goal, and the cost to ratepayers.
But if we are going to bring the community with us on the journey towards net zero emissions by 2026, the community needs an honest appraisal of where we are at, whether the goal is achievable and, if not, what more needs to be done.
It’s a point recently made by the Climate Change Authority in its recently released second Annual Progress Report.
The report referred to the need for improved communications and transparency and observed that open and clear information builds trust between governments, industry, and the community.
“Timely and transparent reporting on policy implementation will lift community confidence that targets can be met”(Climate Change Authority, 2023 Annual Progress Report).
Since Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 not a single report from Council has reported on progress towards net zero emissions by 2026. Council’s Corporate Plan makes no reference on progress towards emissions reduction and does not even include relevant performance measures in this regard. Council has tabled five annual reports in that time; none with any feedback to the community as to whether the 2026 target is on track. The CEO’s year in review report makes no reference to emissions reduction (apart from a disingenuous reference to community batteries; a federal government rather than Council initiative) and the quarterly performance reports presented to councillors (which are activity and operational focussed) make no reference to progress in meeting the 2026 objective.
Zero Emissions Noosa Inc (ZEN Inc) has, to its credit, acknowledged the realities and removed from its updated strategic plan the objective of net zero emissions by 2026.
Now that Council and ZEN Inc have entered a “partnership agreement” with ratepayer’s funds directed to the latter, perhaps it’s time both organisations put their heads together to produce a credible information strategy to inform residents where we really are when it comes to emissions reduction.
OK – I hear you say – this is not at the top of your list of Council issues, but transparency and delivering on promises are both crucial for confidence in our local government. That’s why it’s important.