KINGSTON Council has voted to declare a climate and ecological emergency.
Councillors approved a motion at their 28 January meeting to “declare a climate and ecological emergency in line with the overwhelming consensus of climate science, which indicates rising global temperatures are putting our local economy, people, species, and ecosystems at risk as evidenced by the recent bushfires.”
The move puts Kingston Council in line with neighbouring Frankston Council and Mornington Peninsula Shire, which both declared climate emergencies last year.
In declaring the emergency, council agreed to implement a number of measures to help curb the influence of climate change. They include to “undertake to work with our diverse multicultural communities to raise awareness of climate change, investigate the financial viability of divestment within council financing with the aim of moving away from financial institutions which fund the fossil fuel industry, ensure there is a net gain of trees and of native vegetation in Kingston by ensuring that every tree that is removed is replaced by at least three trees and that other native vegetation that is removed is replaced twofold as close as possible to where it has been removed from” and to fund a climate change action plan in their 2020-2021 budget cycle.
Council also resolved to call on the state and federal governments to declare a climate emergency as well.
Crs Rosemary West, David Eden, Steve Staikos, Tamara Barth, and Georgina Oxley supported the proposal. Crs Tamsin Bearlsey and Geoff Gledhill voted against it. Cr Ron Brownlees abstained.
The mayor Cr Oxley said that climate change was “the issue of a lifetime”.
“We have to remember this won’t happen in six months or probably nine months, this is going to take us a long time to achieve,” she said. “As we achieve some of these goals we need to create more goals to make this a better place to live.”
“We should be doing all of this now, and this is just the start. We need to continue to do more.”
Cr West, who made the proposal to council, said “the bushfires did hit home for us that we absolutely need to do something.”
“People are waking up and really want action to make things better.”
Cr Gledhill said “I don’t support calling a climate emergency. I think that’s alarmist and I think it’s a little bit trite.”
“I think there’s ample evidence that the climate at the moment is changing. I don’t care whether it’s man made or not, we are the custodians of the planet so we’ve got an obligation to do something about it,” he said. “As a council we do a lot of work mitigating climate change but we don’t tell anyone about it, we keep it a well guarded secret.”
Members of the public gallery broke into applause after the vote was passed.