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Manly Council follows Rudd's lead, abandons carbon neutrality

(A version of this item now appears at Earthwitness)

The Rudd Government's mediocre vision for carbon emission reduction is filtering down to local government. With no incentive for any Australian to use initiative to exceed the Federal Government targets, Manly Council, on Sydney's affluent northern beaches, has decided to cut costs and abandon the purchase of green electricity. In doing so it has resolved to abandon its goal of being carbon neutral by the end of 2010, supporting Rudd's goal of 25 per cent reduction on 2000 emissions by 2020.

Manly, in partnership with three neighbouring councils (Pittwater, Warringah and Mosman, in a partnership called SHOROC) recently chose Trulight and AGL as their electricity suppliers for two years six months from 1 July 2010, at an estimated cost saving of $30,000 per year. However a move to rescind the decision on the basis that it did not provide for green power was put to Manly Council at their September 14 meeting. This motion was lost by margin of eight votes to three.

At the same meeting, Council approved (by the same eight votes to three) a motion by the Mayor of Manly, Jean Hay, resolving "that Council’s target on carbon emission be brought into line with Prime Minister Mr. Rudd’s recent announcement to commence phasing-in of emission reductions from 1 July 2011 and working to a 25% carbon emission reduction on the 2000 level by 2020."

Councillor Hay stated, in her mayoral minute to council, that

"The widely accepted carbon management hierarchy, which this Council supports, is:
1. First, reduce demand for energy and avoid energy use
2. Second, increase energy efficiency
3. Then switch to renewable energy sources; and only then
4. would the purchase of carbon offsets be considered

For many years, Council, where budgets permit, has methodically been applying the carbon emission reduction hierarchy in managing Council‟s energy consumption, particularly in the areas of transport and electricity.

It appears to me that the aspiration of becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2010 is an impractical target and an extraordinarily expensive ambition. Besides, until Council‟s budgets allow it to complete all the necessary work involved in tiers one and two of the carbon management hierarchy, Council‟s carbon emissions can never be truly neutral without relying on the very expensive option of purchasing offset, which in my view is unsustainable.

In my opinion, the national target announced by Prime Minister Mr Rudd is an achievable goal. I therefore commend it to council."

(source: Agenda papers for council meeting, 14.9.09)

Mosman Council was contemplating withdrawing from the package, their finance manager being quoted by the "Manly Daily" as saying that there would be "only marginal savings for Mosman" under the proposed contracts "and there may be something better out there for us". Mosman has declared a target of purchasing 10 per cent green power for council-owned properties and 100 per cent for streetlights.

Legislation for a national Emissions Trading Scheme based on the Rudd Government's proposed targets was rejected by the Senate in August. It will be resubmitted to Federal Parliament in November 2009.