Interrogating council’s Climate Action Plan

By KIERAN FINNANE

Last updated 16 October 2019, 2.47pm.

 

There is now a detailed update on the Town Council’s Climate Action Plan (CAP)  following concerted action by local residents  at council meetings in September, including a request for an “online real-time transparent and accessible platform for viewing the progress of the CAP”.

 

Left: Implementing a plan to turn food waste into a resource will provide the CAP’s single biggest contribution to reducing emissions.

 

What has been provided by council’s Environment Officer  is not quite that but it is a progress report on the CAP in its entirety, including what percentage of actions are completed, timeframes for the remainder and what will be involved in their implementation.

 

Jennifer Taylor, who was at those meetings in September, was in the chamber again on Monday to ask further questions on behalf of the group.

 

Ms Taylor welcomed the progress report as a “big win for everybody” and said the group was “quite excited” about the FOGO plan. The acronym refers to Food Organic and Garden Organics, and the plan is about introducing a residential collection service that would divert organic waste from the landfill, using it for compost.

 

Food and garden organics make up about 38% of local residential waste.

 

The FOGO plan is the single largest emissions reduction initiative of the CAP and when fully implemented would reduce greenhouse emissions by more than 2000 tonnes a year, according to the Environment Officer’s report.

 

The plan is about to be trialled, with the site trial at the landfill beginning in November, exploring over six months different composting methodologies with existing infrastructure, machinery and staff.

 

A community trial involving 100-200 households will start in May next year, testing different receptacles and collection processes, with council also developing ways of checking for and dealing with contamination.

 

The trials will eat up most of the $250,000 budget for the CAP this financial year, costing a total of $233,700.

 

Ms Taylor pointed out that the Environment Officer’s report did not include updates of council’s emissions inventory and community emissions profile and asked whether progress had been made on this.

 

She asked for an update on whether an online open tracking system for the CAP has been or will be installed.

 

She queried the apparent introduction, in the motion councillors unanimously supported on 30 September, of a longer time frame for reaching a 50% reduction in emissions. Previously the target  was 50% by 2021, but the motion specified 50% by 2030. How is that longer time frame justified, has the scope of action been increased? (The Environment Officer’s report is still working on 50% by 2012.)

 

She queried the definition of the CAP as providing “a guiding document and principles for the mitigation and adaptation of climate change”, when in its current form it focuses only on mitigation, not adaptation.

 

Right: Solar system on the roof of council’s indoor pool. There are plans to install an additional 132.6 kW in council-owned sports facilities, taking council to 50% of its target for this action. Photo from council’s website. 

 

She asked, in relation to the CAP’s commitment to lobby the NT Government for strong leadership on climate action, what targets council will advocate, suggesting an immediate reduction of emissions to achieve net zero by 2025 and halting any and all new fossil fuel projects.

 

On the CAP’s commitment to lobby the Power Water Corporation to reduce emissions from wastewater, she suggested council could encourage PWC to use biosolid waste as a resource, mixing it with green waste.

 

Her group is also asking that council include community and private water-use reduction as part of the adaptation component of the CAP.

 

On the CAP’s commitment to educating council staff and the community about the science of climate change, its potential impacts and mitigating actions, she suggested this could be pushed beyond council’s website. Declaration of a climate emergency – both a symbolic and advocacy position – could help achieve this.

 

“This is about recognising that climate change is a global issue and that we are a part of that conversation. A declaration would perfectly complement council’s position on urgent action and the well developed CAP and could place us as a leader where it matters most,” said Ms Taylor.

 

All of her questions were taken on notice, with CEO Robert Jennings promising a considered reply.

 

Councillor Jimmy Cocking also had a few questions and suggestions on the issues. He urged council to engage with the NT Government on their climate response when they come to town next week for community briefings (submissions on the response are due by 31 October).

 

Mr Jennings said he will attend one of the briefings.

 

Cr Cocking suggested that council could consider finance agreements where homeowners access funds to invest in renewable energy and energy-efficient additions to their houses and make repayments to pay the cost of the installation via the rating system.

 

Such a scheme in the USA, known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans, is backed by enabling legislation in 36 states. $5 billion worth of loans were issued for 220,000 home upgrades from 2010 to May 2018, making PACE the fastest-growing segment of the US lending industry, according to the website Investopedia.

 

On the CAP goal to partner with key local organisations to develop or progress climate action initiatives, Cr Cocking suggested council could do more than  educate people about single use plastics at the Todd Mall markets, “something we should be doing anyway”.

 

On its goal to educate the community more broadly about climate change and  responsive action, he said council needs to make sure the community “comes with us on this, there’s a lot more they need to be aware of”.

 

The CAP will be discussed by councillors in more detail at an upcoming council forum (not open to the public).

 

 

 

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Patricia Beattie
    Posted October 25, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks to everyone involved in progressing Alice’s response to global warming.

    View Comment
  2. Trevor Shiell
    Posted October 17, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Can you imagine in a country such as Israel surrounded by desert as we are, using water to flush away human waste including some food scraps, and then treatng the water as a waste product and letting it evaporate as we do? Because of their need, they (Israel) claim to be able to produce a tonne of potable water from waste for under 60 cents using nano tube technology. Singapore has a complete university faculty devoted to the same objective for the same reasons. Why are we not chasing the same concept? Now add the commercial value of the nutrients in the ponds and we should be on a winner.
    Some with long memories might remember some years ago one operator of the tip installed a network of pipes under the refuse to collect the gas. What ever happened to that? On occasions I get the wiff of hydrogen sulphide on passing. This gas is second only to hydrogen cyanide in toxicity and is now banned from school laboratories for that reason. It used to be good fun making it! I have wondered at times of its effect on workers at the tip and this needs to be monitored for OH & S reasons. All that is needed are a few strips of blotting paper soaked in silver nitrate and we might have a case for moving it, or better still,look at alternative and more up to date technologies.

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  3. Watchn
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    Yeah, I have a worm farm. And use the left[-overs] myself and pass it onto friends for their gardens too. I hope council get a good following for it.

    View Comment
  4. Evelyne Roullet
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    @ Watchn: Some people already use their organic wastes for their garden/yards, but in my humble opinion it is a good idea needed to be studied and worked on to supply the households that by lack of knowledge or time cannot do it.
    Collecting the methane would be a bonus. Do not talk methane, but biogas, produced when organic matter biodegrades under anaerobic conditions (that is, in the absence of oxygen).
    This process produces a mixture of gases – primarily methane, some carbon dioxide and tiny portions of other gases such as hydrogen sulphide.
    When the biogas is filtered to remove the hydrogen sulphide, the resulting mixture can be burned as an energy source for cooking, lighting, or heating water or space.
    When compressed it can be used as fuel for vehicles.
    On a commercial scale biogas can be used to generate electricity or even refined and fed into the gas grid.
    Council is on the right path and should be complimented for this idea, a step forward.

    View Comment
  5. Watchn
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Where is the methane from the food scraps going?
    Unless it is captured, collecting the household waste will only result in council selling ratepayers back their own fertiliser.

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