Responding to the climate crisis during COVID-19 recovery efforts

Monday 01 June 2020

Yarra Council is calling on the State and Federal governments to cut emissions and improve environmental outcomes as part of post-coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery efforts. 

Yarra Mayor, Cr Misha Coleman said there is a unique opportunity ‘build back better’ - to use the recovery efforts to create jobs and stimulate industries that lower emissions.

“Whilst we are in the middle of the COVID-19 emergency response, we must not forget the other crisis we are facing – the climate emergency.

“Like the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency poses significant risks to people’s health and livelihoods and will be highly disruptive to our existing way of life, as we saw earlier this year during the catastrophic Australian bushfires.

“Australia’s swift and unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we can make meaningful changes in a short period of time. 

“There are things we can and should be doing in the recovery phase of the pandemic to create more resilient communities. For example, Yarra Council is planning to eliminate gas from its operations by 2030. 

“We already source 100% of our electricity needs from wind power thanks to our investment in the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project. We’re also planning to transition all council-owned vehicles to electric, drastically reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. 

“We’ll also raise the bar for new buildings to drive a shift towards all-electric homes, powered by 100% renewable energy. We’ll work with other government partners to amend the planning scheme to introduce zero carbon standards for new commercial and residential developments.

“We’re looking at ways to get new cycle and walking options up quickly too – especially given the ongoing physical distancing measures which will need to be in place throughout the public transport system as we gradually come out of lock-down.”

“We’re calling on the State and Federal governments to make similar commitments to renewable energy when planning our nation’s recovery from COVID-19 – and we’ll be advocating for a Melbourne-wide transition to electric buses too.”

These are just some of the actions outlined in Yarra Council’s draft Climate Emergency Plan, which is set to be tabled at Yarra’s 2 June council meeting. The release of the plan is timely, as we begin to move into the recovery phase of COVID-19. 

Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Australian bushfires disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people in our communities, who have far less capacity to cope with the impacts. 

“It is important that our COVID-19 recovery does not further entrench social and economic inequalities in the community.

“One of the ways we can address this is by creating a cooler, climate-adapted city with more trees and accessible cool spaces. 

“We would like to see other levels of government expand programs to upgrade the homes of people with complex healthcare needs and low income households, to be energy efficient and safe from worsening climate impacts,” said Cr Coleman. 

Yarra Council will be considering its first Climate Emergency Plan for adoption at a Council Meeting on Tuesday 2 June.

Developing a Climate Emergency Plan now, despite the economic uncertainty, is critically important to highlight the magnitude of climate crisis, and to better ensure that actions taken to recover and rebuild from the pandemic include a climate emergency lens.

If adopted, Yarra will be committing to significant actions that can be taken by local government, and calling on all levels of government to work together to protect our community from the predicted worst impacts of climate change.


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