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Net zero by 2030? Waverley Council investigates ambitious new goal

Installing solar panels across the local government area is part of Waverley Council's pathway to net zero. Photo: Waverley Council

By ALLISON HORE

In a bid to urgently tackle the devastating impacts of climate change, Waverley Council will investigate an ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2030. 

Currently, Waverley Council aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But this may soon change with council voting unanimously to support a Mayoral Minute calling on this target to be revised.

Waverley Mayor, Paula Masselos said achieving net zero carbon emissions was “a matter of urgency” which could not wait until 2050. 

“Not keeping climate change within the 2-degree limit will have catastrophic consequences for Australia and our planet,” she said.

At the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit, experts warned that current global commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions will likely lead to global temperature increases between 2.9°C and 3.4°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. 

This would have a devastating effect on our coastal city. 

“Extreme bushfires will become increasingly frequent, prolonged dry periods will impact agriculture, flora and fauna and for our coastline,” said Mayor Masselos. 

“The impact of rising sea levels will change our beaches, coast and result in significant damage.”

However, scientists agree that decisive action now could limit warming to 2°C. 

The investigation of a pathway towards net zero emissions follows the council’s 2019 declaration of a state of climate and biodiversity emergency. Council acknowledged urgent action across all levels of government was needed to avoid catastrophic climate change. 

An ambitious target

Emissions are considered “net zero” when any greenhouse gases generated are counterbalanced by the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

While reaching net zero seems like a lofty goal, Mayor Masselos says some simple changes would allow the council to run its activities with net zero emissions. She says changes already in the works are a major step towards this goal. 

“Through the purchase of 100% renewable energy by 2030, which has already been endorsed by Council, the phasing out of gas and the rapid transition to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy, Waverley Council will be able to have net zero carbon emissions by 2030,” Mayor Masselos said.

Other councils, including the City of Sydney, have already committed to more ambitious targets of net zero than 2050. 

In May this year the City of Sydney announced a “bold” new plan to achieve net zero by 2035. The council is encouraging businesses, residents and other organisations to use renewable energy sources, promoting public transport and active transport options and trialling a new food waste recycling scheme. 

Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, hopes their target will encourage other councils to do the same. 

“Overwhelming climate research tells us we can’t afford to take our time reducing carbon emissions in Australia – emissions need to plummet now,” she said.

“While the City of Sydney cannot tackle the climate crisis alone, we can lead and encourage others to do the same within their communities.”

Across the Waverley local government area, the biggest contributing factors to carbon emissions are electricity and transportation. Mayor Masselos says once new targets are investigated they will be incorporated into the council’s strategy and budgeting. 

“Council will also now investigate this new target becoming a key priority of Council’s activities and incorporated into our draft 2021-22 Operational Plan, and that the next Environmental Action Plan and Long Term Financial Plan budgets are updated accordingly to achieve this,” Mayor Masselos said.

Council says a report on updated carbon emissions targets is expected “soon.”

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