Seven out of 10 local governments in New South Wales’ coal producing heartland, the Hunter Valley, have signed up as members of Australia’s largest local government climate network, the Cities Power Partnership, after three new councils signed up to the initiative.
Lake Macquarie City Council, Port Stephens Council and Cessnock City Council on Thursday revealed that they had taken membership in the CPP, joining existing Hunter region members, MidCoast Council, Upper Hunter Shire Council, Muswellbrook Shire and City of Newcastle.
The network of more than 129 councils from across the country, representing almost 11 million Australians, requires participating councils to make five action pledges in either renewable energy, efficiency, transport or working in partnership to tackle climate change.
According to the website, councils can choose from dozens of actions to fulfil these reuirements, such as installing solar on government buildings, switching to electric buses, or opening up old landfills for new solar farms – such as fellow coal town Newcastle has done with great success.
The new membership from councils based in one of Australia’s largest coal mining and generation hubs is significant, in a country where the Coalition government has so successfully – if disingenuously – campaigned on a policy platform that has equated coal with jobs.
After Labor’s shock election loss in 2019, the party’s national president and former Treasurer, Wayne Swan, told the ABC his party had failed to reassure communities that viewed coal as their lifeblood.
This week’s action by some of these communities’ local governments shows a growing understanding that action on climate change, and the shift to renewable energy, is not mutually exclusive to job creation and economic growth and, rather, could hold the key to future prosperity in these regions.
“Right now, local governments have an opportunity to accelerate projects that will deliver local jobs quickly and tackle long term challenges like climate change,” said Cities Power Partnership acting director Dr Portia Odell.
“It’s brilliant to see more regional councils sign up to the program to help deliver a safer climate and stronger economy for their communities,” she said.
“Taking meaningful action on climate is very important to our community,” said Lake Macquarie Mayor Cr Kay Fraser. “We know we face a range of challenges in building a sustainable and resilient future, and that’s why we’ve joined the Cities Power Partnership.
“The program will help accelerate our newly adopted Environmental Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan that has a goal for council to become 100 per cent renewable and for 80 per cent of our residents to use more renewable energy, more active transport and conserve water,” Fraser added.
“So far, we’ve installed solar panels across 27 Council buildings, rolled out 5600 LED streetlights and are encouraging renewable energy uptake in our community.”
Mayor of Port Stephens Council, Ryan Palmer said council and the community had benefitted from taking action on climate for many years.
“From rolling out solar on council buildings to restoring beloved bushland, council has been working to cut emissions, save on energy bills and provide green spaces for the community to enjoy,” he said.
“The Cities Power Partnership will help advance our work in this space, including a Sustainability Action Plan that will set clear emission reduction and renewable energy targets to create a strong, clean local economy.”
Cessnock Mayor Bob Pynsent said the move was a step in the right direction for Cessnock City Council, reaffirming its commitment to positive action.
“It recognises the importance of environmental improvements at all levels of government. It also aligns with our recently adopted Climate Change Policy and will facilitate the sharing of knowledge with like-minded councils to reduce our emissions and build climate resilience,” he said.