Local government is being challenged to take bold action on climate change and to show strong community leadership at a recent national roundtable held at the University of Technology.


Hosted by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), the roundtable represented a broad cross section of  local government organisations who came together  to review the current status of climate change research, policy and practice at the local level.


The Director of the ACELG, Professor Graham Sansom said that it’s timely for the sector to have this discussion as it can feed into the broader national debate on what interventions are needed as Australia moves to a low carbon future.


“It is important for local government to consider whether new structures are needed to ensure an effective national local government voice on climate change, particularly in light of the loss of the former Cities for Climate Protection Program”, Professor Sansom said.


Key actions agreed to by the roundtable were to seek to ensure that nationally consistent frameworks are developed for use by local government, that platforms for sharing innovation and new ideas around climate change action are established, and that local government takes more of the lead role in setting the research agenda.


Further, it was agreed that council CEOs and Mayors need to ensure that climate change responses are integrated into every day activities of councils, that climate change training for local government leaders is provided and that local government has a greater influence on how climate change expenditure is allocated at the local level.


Local government is a major provider of infrastructure and community assets, and with recent catastrophic weather events in mind, the resilience of current and future local communities is considered a key priority.


Thirty five representatives of Australian governments and organisations attended, including the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), the Institute of Public Works Engineers, the Local Government Managers Australia, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, and the Institute for Sustainable Futures.


The Director of Research and Policy at ALGA, John Pritchard said that we need to ensure that the outcomes of this event have a practical benefit to councils across Australia.


“One of the greatest benefit to councils will be if we can more effectively integrate policy and applied research into local planning and help councils manage the associated legal risks”, Mr Pritchard said.


NCCARF, which has a focus on national climate change adaptation research, will work with ACELG and other local government organisations to examine how to best follow up on the needs identified by local government practitioners at the roundtable. A report on concrete actions resulting from the roundtable will be provided to participants within six months.


The roundtable communiqué, the background papers and the ACELG research paper ‘Australian Local Government and Climate Change’ are available on the ACELG website: http://www.acelg.org.au/news-detail.php?id=147