Walkout Thwarts City Of Hobart Climate Change Emergency Debate

City of Hobart - Climate Change

Image: Barrylb

A debate on whether City of Hobart (Council) would officially declare a “climate and biodiversity emergency” had to be abandoned after three councillors walked out.

With the three leaving the Council meeting on Monday night, there was no quorum; i.e. the minimum number of members necessary to conduct Council business.

A summary of the motion put forward:

  • Affirming Hobart City Council’s commitment to future generations in addressing catastrophic climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • Writing to Prime Minister Morrison urging him and his government to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency and take appropriate action.
  • Submit urgency motions to the Local Government Association of Tasmania and the Australian Local Government Association to declare a national climate and biodiversity emergency.
  • An acknowledgement of the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency in Council’s new Strategic Plan.

The full motion and background can be viewed here.

Several angry councillors took to social media to condemn what has been called a pre-meditated move by the three.

“The majority spoke in favor of debating the issue, so to avoid losing the vote that the motion is urgent and should be debated, the three walked out of the chamber so there was no quorum,” said Councillor Bill Harvey.  “I’ve never seen this appalling strategy used before. This sort of attitude demonstrates the very reason why we need to declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency.”

The three who walked out have defended their actions. Three of the council’s 12 elected members were already absent and they felt the motion wasn’t going to get the debate it required.

“Regardless of your views on this issue, we can all agree it is one of enough importance to warrant a full debate rather than being rammed through council to make a political point,” said Alderman1 Simon Behrakis.

Cr. Harvey, who put forward the motion, says it will be debated once it has gone to a committee, then back to Council.

City’s Climate Change Street Cred

City of Hobart already acknowledges climate change is a significant global issue that will impact at a local level, and believes it has a role to assist the community in adaptation and carbon reduction. Among its actions have been promoting home solar power uptake and providing related educational resources. According to the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI), approximately 13.1% of dwellings within the City of Hobart Local Government Area (LGA) have panels installed.

City of Hobart has also been working to reduce its own energy use and emissions. In 2014, an emissions target of 17% reduction from 2010 levels by 2019–20 was set, as was a target for energy use reduction of 35% over the same timeframe. As part of working towards both, a number of solar energy systems have been installed on Council assets, including Hobart Town Hall; with the largest systems at Doone Kennedy Hobart Aquatic Centre (100kW and 300kW).

In addition to solar power and energy efficiency initiatives, Hobart City Council has been putting its money where its mouth is. Back in 2017, a new Council policy was passed committing to investing 100% of City funds in banks that don’t back fossil fuels.

Footnotes

  1. Alderman is the term used for local government representatives on Tasmania’s six city councils; but some still refer to themselves as “councillors”. There have been moves for a change to the local government act to remove the word alderman.
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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