Monday, October 03, 2011

350 in the valley

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the recent event at ECOSS in the upper yarra valley in Wesburn. is a worldwide movement, created by author Bill McKibben, to build a grassroots global movement to solve climate change. Why 350 parts per million is the amount of Co2 scientists say is a safe limit for humanity (we're currently at 391ppm). ECOSS is modelled on the CERES model of community park to engender a culture of sustainability.

It was a great opportunity to talk about the range of initiatives council is undertaking to either adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change.

This photo was taken to send to the website to show how Wesburn participated in this worldwide event.

Council's recognition of the importance of climate change as serious issue was first acknowledged with our signing of the Yarra Ranges Climate Change Commitment, which set out a number of actions we'd undertake to exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution.

Local performers provided the entertainment, here's Michael Arvanitakis from the Jed Rowe band performing to delight of onlookers.

Council has developed a number of policies to help achieve this target:
~ Resource Management Strategy - an action plan to reduce both council and community energy and resource use and respond to climate change. It was this strategy that underpins council's decision to sign the Ethical Paper Pledge.
~ Environment Strategy - sets out our current strategic policy direction on climate change and how we will reduce our footprint through council's own operations and in the community.
~ Environmentally Sustainable Development Policy - focuses on how council can make its capital works program sustainable.

Part of the days activities included this labyrinth made out of plant pots, young and old alike had fun tracing and retracing the path of the labyrinth.

Council is also reviewing all of our strategies on climate change so we can revisit our overall approach to climate change. We are also in the midst of developing a new Peak Oil Strategy for how we will respond to potential oil shocks and fuel shortages that peak oil will bring.

After I spoke many people came up to me to say they were not aware of all the ways council plays a part in addressing climate change impacts and were pleased to have a progressive council.

We are about to embark on the development of a Water Management Strategy and have employed a dedicated Water Management Officer to deliver this. The strategy will address some of the risks climate change poses to water supply and waterway health. It will also identify alternative sources of water to allow for greater conservation of drinking water in the municipality.

Local community members had the opportunity to perform spoken word as well as songs, it was a great celebration of the diversity of talent in the valley.

Council also supports the Yarra Ranges Transition Towns network by coordinating an information sharing network and providing regular updates to our TTers.

Council has an enormous role to play in land use planning which means we have a significant input into creating a more sustainable pattern of development through our land use planning strategies. Our key strategy, the draft Housing Strategy plans for additional development in areas suitable - with connection to community infrastructure, services and public transport to reduce reliance on motor vehicles.

Our Vision 2020 by Design actively encourages the adoption of Environmentally Sustainable Design and council regularly requires new major developments to demonstrate ESD features are incorporated into the design.

Council keenly protects Green Wedge land which provides not only the food bowl to Melbourne but has enormous biodiversity and landscape values. Green Wedge policies have successfully prevented urban sprawl of car dependent suburbs into areas valued for their agriculture or biodiversity.

Council has strict controls over removal of native vegetation, along with our targetted revegetation programs we ensure we retain important habitat areas for flora and fauna to maintain a healthy ecosystems.

One of council's key revegetation programs is Ribbons of Green. Established in 2007 to offset council's fleet emissions and increase biodiversity outcomes, the program has seen participants plant more than 70,000 plants each year. The program also provides advice about how shcools, private landoweners and community groups can control weeds, manage erosion and address pest animals. More than half the plants provided under Ribbons of Green provide connections to existing remnant vegetation and will provide much needed habitat into the future.

Council is dedicated to making our own operations more sustainable and reducing our own carbon footprint, however we also play a key role in leading and educating the public, schools, professional associations, businesses and industry about reducing their footprint.

Our draft Economic Strategy recognises the importance of encouraging a low carbon economy in Yarra Ranges and council's commitment to assisting local businesses to meet the challenges this will bring.

Yarra Ranges Sustainable Business Program, has graduated over 95 businesses since its inception in 2007 and helps businesses develop growth strategies that do more with less, this innovative program was recognised with a nomination for the 2010 Banksia Awards.

Council's Learning for Sustainability program helps schools gain an stronger understanding of their ecological footprint, how they use their resources, and how students, staff and the broader school community can make a difference working towards a more sustainable future. The LfS program encourages students to take leadership on environment issues and learn good environmental habits.

Council also plays a key role in advocacy on public transport through the Eastern Transport Coalition, a group of 7 councils commited to reducing car dependency across the east of Melbourne and improving liveability.

Council has also played a key role in advocating to see native forest logging stopped in the municipality and currently oppose logging in Melbourne's water catchments and logging on Mt St Leonard and the Bicentennial Trail and most recently signed the Ethical Paper Pledge.

Council continues to act to reduce our footprint and encourages community members to do so also. ECOSS plays a key role in helping communities transition to a low carbon future and are dedicated to make our region more resiliant into the future. The ECOSS committee, staff and volunteers are to be commended for their ongoing efforts for Ecologically Sustainable Solutions and for the organising the valley's event.

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