The Brisbane (Australia) City Council's Climate Change and Energy Taskforce report, released on 12 March 2007, included 31 recommendations across eight strategy areas having to do with how this large, coastal, sub-tropical city can face the challenges of climate change and peak oil.
In August 2006, Brisbane City Council set up the Climate Change and Energy Taskforce. Its aim was to advise Council on how to prepare and respond to:
- climate change
- increasing energy use
- rising petrol prices
- peak oil (when the global supply of oil begins to fall)
The taskforce report, 'Climate Change and Energy Taskforce Final Report: A Call for Action', was presented to Cabinet on 12 March 2007.
The report included 31 recommendations across eight strategy areas.
Council debated the final taskforce report and has adopted 22 of the recommended actions, which you can read in "Brisbane's Plan for action".
From the introduction
Key Messages for the Brisbane Community
The Taskforce has identified the following basic facts that it believes all citizens need to understand about what climate change and peak oil mean for Brisbane. These key messages provide a basis for the ‘Challenge for Brisbane’, which is a call to action for both the council and the community.
The climate is changing and Brisbane must adapt
- Scientists agree that climate change is occurring worldwide. This consensus was recently confirmed and enhanced by the February 3, 2007 report of the world authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
- The CSIRO and others are currently developing a clear understanding of what this will mean for Australia, including Brisbane.
- There is a need to act now, but no need to panic. In fact, there are many practical and effective steps we can take immediately that will help us adapt to climate change, and contribute to the global effort to stop climate change while still protecting our economy and way of life.
- Even if we act immediately, the impacts of climate change will be felt for years to come. Even if the world stopped emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, there would still be years of climate change due to gases already built-up in the atmosphere. This means that the city will have to adapt to change as well as help reduce global greenhouse emissions.
Drought, heat, storms, floods and bushfires
- Climate change will have a range of direct impacts for Brisbane which may include:
- Lower average rainfall, lower soil moisture and increased drought
- More extremely hot days
- More intense storms related to North Queensland cyclones
- Sea level rise and larger storm surges
- More bushfires.
- The range of indirect impacts associated with these climate changes is wide and difficult to catalogue (e.g. more cases of mosquito borne disease or bone fractures on dry sporting grounds).
- The current drought has permanently changed the way residents, business and government view water and provides the opportunity to develop innovative ways to use water efficiently. We may even be able to profit from this knowledge.
Inevitable rise in petrol prices will affect our economy and society
- Peak oil is closely related to climate change and means that the world will not be able to increase the rate of oil production to meet growing demand, even though we may be far from emptying the world’s oil wells.
- Over a period of years, petrol prices will continue to rise. This will create hardship for people who can’t afford the increases but who rely on their cars for their primary mode of transport. It will also affect our economy through higher freight costs, flowing through to the price of goods, especially food.
- As a nation (or city), if we can reduce our reliance on foreign oil we will be able to stabilise our economy and improve public health, as well positively influence Australia’s balance of payments.
Council has a responsibility to act in relation to climate change and peak oil
- Timing and determination in our response to these issues is critical: too late and adaptation will be unaffordable; too weak and we may reduce community anxiety but fail to address the problems.
- Debate over whether Australia should participate in the Kyoto Protocol has been overtaken by a clear global need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below levels that will cause dangerous changes to Earth’s climate.
- The best way to respond to climate change, peak oil and other societal challenges is to apply the concept of sustainability. Council has defined sustainability as a principle to influence its decisions to maintain and enhance Brisbane’s quality of life now and in the future. It requires an integrated consideration of economic, environmental and community factors.
- Council has a responsibility to lead its community in addressing these challenges, but everybody will have to play a part and be individually responsible.
A Challenge for Brisbane
The Taskforce advises Council that although climate change and peak oil present serious challenges, Council can take many actions now that will prepare the city for these challenges ahead, while yielding valuable economic opportunities. If Council accepts the challenge presented, it will give the people of Brisbane a brighter future. Brisbane will be a better place to live than other cities that were reluctant to face the challenge and seize the opportunities provided by climate change and peak oil.
Top priority actions for Council
- The top actions Council can take in the short to medium term to respond to climate change and peak oil are to:
- Take concerted and active leadership at all levels
- Work towards zero net greenhouse emissions from Brisbane by 2050
- Educate the community about climate change, peak oil and sustainability and the positive actions people can take
- Develop a new way of thinking about planning for our future, especially in relation to public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure
- Further drought-proof the city.
Zero net greenhouse gas emissions from Brisbane by 2050
- The City of Brisbane, its people and businesses should commit to making an equitable contribution to stabilising greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere through targeted reductions over time. An equitable contribution, allowing for Australia’s developed status in world economies, is approximately a 90 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. This would allow Brisbane to emit approximately one million tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide.
- To crystallise the goal for Brisbane, the Taskforce proposes a goal of zero net emissions by 2050. This will necessarily include a component of carbon offsets (e.g. tree planting).
- To lead this push, Council should join other local governments, Federal and State agencies and leading corporations in moving towards full carbon neutrality. Carbon neutrality means reducing greenhouse gas emissions as far as possible and then using offsets to achieve net greenhouse emissions of zero.
- Council should capitalise on its strong commitment to reducing emissions by investing in energy
efficiency, renewable electricity, biofuels and the Regional Carbon Sink.
- Carbon emissions trading will play a central role in Brisbane’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Taskforce encourages Council to maintain a higher priority on
measures to save energy and oil, and promote renewable energy, as storing carbon in trees alone is not enough to combat climate change.
A change in attitude by governments, businesses and individuals
- Council should call for a sweeping change in attitude and policy by governments at all levels, businesses and the community - a change that would provide incentives to reduce emissions, and prepare for the consequences of climate change.
- Council can extend its influence by partnering with business, media, community and government organisations. For example, it could partner with the city’s top consumers of electricity and water to develop innovations that would put Brisbane at the forefront of sustainability.
- The Taskforce calls on the Lord Mayor and councillors to model appropriate behaviour and to personally lead education campaigns about climate change, including efforts to foster specific community behavioural change.
- While Brisbane is currently experiencing water restrictions and drought, the paradox of climate change is that tomorrow we may face hail, floods and storm surges. Although there are obvious first steps - such as recognising the true value of water - Council should study the city’s vulnerabilities to climate change in detail and amend its policies on planning, infrastructure, health and welfare accordingly.
- The way people and goods currently move around the city is heavily reliant on oil and is a growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Council needs to work with its State and Federal counterparts to dramatically shift the emphasis of transport in Brisbane towards walking, cycling, public transport and telecommuting.
- Throughout all of Council’s efforts, sustainability should be the common theme. If Council embeds its existing Corporate Sustainability Policy (August 2005) into its decision making, it will create an opportunity to shape the city’s long-term future with each decision it faces.
- Council’s planning needs to be based on a forward picture of the city under the climate change and peak oil scenarios, not a backward looking picture of delivering planning schemes, infrastructure plans and service plans based on continuing the status quo.