Yarra Council split on climate stance

On Tuesday night Yarra Council voted four votes to five to reject a motion calling on the Federal Government to implement a large range of measures for achieving a safe climate future. This motion was put to council by Mayor Alison Clarke at the request of Yarra Climate Action Now and was found by a staff member to be consistent with Yarra City Council’s own climate policies.

The proposed motion expressed support for a carbon price as well as the following measures:

  • Offset the financial implications of the carbon price for households, through measures such as rebates for energy efficiency and financial assistance for low-income households, to ensure that they are not further disadvantaged by the effects of taking action on climate change.
  • Adopt a long-term zero-emissions target for the whole Australian economy, and draw up and immediately implement a plan for how to meet this target.
  • Any new power plants constructed should substantially reduce net emissions and assist in the rapid transition of our major baseload power supply from coal to renewables.
  • Invest in a just and rapid transition to less polluting industries for workers and local communities in places such as Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, based on advice that is independent and evidence-based.
  • Invest the carbon tax revenue not required for household and worker/industry compensation in renewable energy generation, including baseload solar thermal.
  • Introduce a gross national feed-in tariff, to pay a guaranteed fair price for all electricity produced by all forms of renewable energy, including baseload solar thermal.
  • Initiate a mass roll-out of energy-efficiency measures, particularly for residential and commercial buildings, in partnership with interested local governments, many of which already have considerable experience and expertise in this area.
  • Shift investment away from roads and into rail freight, walking, cycling and public transport, including urban and regional/rural public transport and high-speed rail between capital cities.
  • End the logging of carbon-dense old growth forests and broad-scale native vegetation clearing, and invest in revegetation projects.
  • Minimise administrative complexity in the carbon price mechanism, and build flexibility into it, so that the price can be adjusted in line with not only inflation but also technological change and updated scientific information about the extent and severity of climate change.

While the Greens and Cr Fristacky voted for the motion, the Labor and Socialist councillors and Cr Smedley voted against it.

YCAN would like to express our extreme disappointment with the councillors that voted against this motion as it represents a clear and comprehensive list of essential policy measures. We aren’t surprised the Labor Party councillors Funder and Barbour voted against it. While the Federal Government is working on implementing a carbon price, it is also funding the new HRL coal-fired power station, and working to expand coal and gas extraction and export. This hypocrisy and continued taxpayer support for the fossil fuel industry means that Labor Party representatives may be constrained in calling for climate action that will make a real difference. When will Labor finally stand up to the big polluters and do the right thing?

We are surprised that Councillors Jolly and Main from the Socialist Party voted against this motion. This is despite Cr Jolly campaigning for a zero emissions economy and the replacement of Hazelwood with renewable energy at the 2010 State Election. YCAN members present at the council meeting reported that the main argument used by the Socialists against the motion was that they didn’t support market-based mechanisms (carbon pricing) and it didn’t call for the re-nationalisation of the electricity sector.

This stance means throwing the baby out with the bathwater. YCAN is also ambivalent about market-based mechanisms, with evidence from Europe showing that they have achieved little in the goal of reducing emissions (although our survey found that 83% of those asked in Nth Fitzroy and Clifton Hill support a price on carbon). However, that is why this motion had a whole range of other demands and policy measures, consistent with YCAN’s own carbon price stance. The climate crisis is bearing down upon us and may require some political compromise for action to occur.

We invite the Yarra Councillors to comment below and explain their stance to YCAN members.