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Greens on QPRC commit to a plan to reach net zero emissions

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What’s wrong with Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council’s Climate Change Action Plans

Community Climate Change Action Plan

The biggest deficiency of the Community Action Plan is that it lacks a target for either renewable energy or greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s meaningless without one, particularly since QPRC’s population is set to grow by 17% over the 2020 to 2030 life of the plan (which would be partly offset by a 9% forecast reduction in the CO2e intensity of QPRC’s electricity supply by 2030). Most people in QPRC’s action plan workshops wanted a 2030 community target with 60% saying they wanted ambitious climate change action by QPRC.

IMAGE: View overlooking roofs of recently built houses in development near Queanbeyan. (Tonympix, Dreamstime)

Like the Council Operations Action Plan, the 10 year period of the Community Plan is too long. A lot will happen in the climate change world over the next 10 years (in terms of urgency and technology that can tackle global warming) so the plan should be updated in about 2025 to reflect it.

The one strong point of the Community Action Plan is that, for the first time, there is a baseline of QPRC community emissions. In 2017, about 831,000 tonnes CO2e was emitted by community sources in the LGA: 24% came from residential electricity use; 26% came from commercial and industrial electricity use; and 31% came from transport. These three areas are where most emission reduction efforts should be.

Most of the Community Action Plan’s 79 action points do not commit QPRC to very much.
— On energy efficiency (the cheapest form of emission reduction) action points like ‘encourage the community to be more energy efficient’ (CU 6.1.4), ‘encourage or help to provide energy audits for households and businesses (CU6.1.1) and ‘adopt energy and water efficient home designs’ (CU6.6.24) are not backed up by new council subsidies or regulations to give meaning to them.
— On renewable energy, action points like ‘investigate opportunities for council and the community to collaborate on a local community renewable energy project’ (CU 6.1.7) and ‘investigate bulk buys for solar PV and solar hot water’ (CU 6.1.8) similarly have no council funding to give them meaning.
— On transport, there are also a large number of action points that don’t commit QPRC to much—like ‘encourage the community to walk more, use buses and carpool’ (CU 6.2.8) and ‘advocate for incentives for low to zero emission vehicle users’ (CU 6.2.13). There are some specific points that commit QPRC a bit like ‘provide better local and inter-city bus services’ (CU 6.2.9) and ‘subsidise bus service between Braidwood and Canberra’ (CU 6.2.11).
— Comment on the community and council operations action plans that was ignored by QPRC included: include PV vehicle charging stations, include details about council adaptation plans, provide more council rebates, consider carbon budgeting, adopt a 45%-by-2030 emission reduction target in both plans, shorten timeframes in both plans, join the Cities Power Partnership and declare a climate emergency.

Council Operations Climate Change Action Plan

The biggest deficiency with the Council Operations Action Plan is that it has weak, nonbinding renewable energy and emission reduction targets. Action point CO 7.1.2 says: ‘review emissions and renewable energy targets and consider adopting 100% renewable energy and net zero greenhouse gas emission targets for council operations by or before 2050’, this is despite the fact that most people in QPRC’s action plan workshops wanted a 2025 target for council operations. These targets are weak compared to other councils:
Eurobodalla and Coffs Harbour councils aim to have 100% renewable energy for their operations by 2030 and Port Macquarie Council is aiming for 2027. Inner West Council (in Sydney) aims to have its operations carbon-neutral by 2023 and Parramatta Council is aiming for 2022.

Like the Community Action Plan, the 10-year period of the Community Plan is too long. A lot will happen in the climate change world over the next 10 years (in terms of urgency and technology that can tackle global warming) and the plan should be updated in about 2025 to reflect it.

The one strong point of the Council Operations Action Plan is that it includes specific data about what are the largest sources of QPRC emissions: electricity used in council assets — 55%, electricity used in street lighting — 22% and diesel and petrol used in the council’s vehicle fleet — 20%. It also has useful QPRC electricity usage data, the two largest, specific users of council electricity are: Queanbeyan street lighting — 25% and Queanbeyan sewerage treatment plant — 19%. These are where most effort should be focused.

Somewhat like the Community Climate Change Action Plan, the Council Operations one has a lot of action points (52) most of which don’t commit the council to anything specific:
— On renewable energy, the plan says QPRC will: ‘consider solar PV at the [Qbn] sewage treatment works’ (action CO 7.5.4), ‘evaluate the business case to install additional solar PV and battery storage at the Queanbeyan depot’ (CO 7.5.11) and ‘review land sites to determine if any are suitable for a future solar farm’ (CO 7.5.14). Given the current poor state of QPRC finances, one has to doubt if many of these actions will be implemented.
— On energy efficiency, the plan is a bit more specific saying that QPRC will ‘upgrade minor and major road street lights to LED’ (CO 7.4.1 and 7.4.2) with a short-term priority.
— On transport, the plan is again slightly more specific than the community plan, saying QPRC will ‘implement a low to zero emissions vehicle trial’ (CO 7.6.5) and will ‘implement a comprehensive fleet strategy that includes a transition to low to zero emissions for passenger and heavy vehicles’ (CO 7.6.6).

Authorised by Katrina Willis, McKeahnie St, Crestwood, NSW 2620, for The Greens in QPRC campaign. June 2021.

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