Port Stephens councillor, residents say time right for climate action

ACTION: Councillor Giacomo Arnott with Climate Action Port Stephens founder Alisha Onslow and her 14-year-old son Dylan, calling for council emergency on climate change.
ACTION: Councillor Giacomo Arnott with Climate Action Port Stephens founder Alisha Onslow and her 14-year-old son Dylan, calling for council emergency on climate change.

A call from councillor Giacomo Arnott to have Port Stephens Council join more than 50 local government areas across the country in declaring a state of climate emergency failed to win majority support from councillors at Tuesday's meeting.

Instead councillors adopted an amendment put forward by Cr Glen Dunkley that calls for action not just words.

His motion called on the council to: acknowledge the work it and the community have done to address climate change across Port Stephens; and acknowledge that ongoing action is needed on climate change to ensure a sustainable future for Port Stephens.

Councillors also agreed that as part of the 2020 Community Strategic Planning process: the council engage with the community and business to obtain suggestions for initiatives to reduce their impact on climate change; and identify initiatives to reduce council's impact on climate change with an associated funding strategy.

The consensus among the majority of councillors was that Port Stephens Council was leading the way with environmental change and in areas of waste recycling, solar energy and conservation.

Cr Arnott 's failed notice of motion had called for the council to recognise that "we are in a state of climate emergency that requires urgent action by all levels of government".

He also requested a report be prepared outlining actions taken by council to date, to address climate change through reducing energy consumption and waste, as well as protecting and improving natural habitat.

"The science is settled and the majority of people are convinced that man-made climate change is a reality. It's time this council became serious about taking action," Cr Arnott said.

"Climate change is something that will effect me in my lifetime and I worry about the rising sea levels and the heating of the planet. As a firefighter I have seen first hand more frequent and more severe bushfires as a result of climate change, and this is impacting not only on people and property, but also on firefighters."

Raymond Terrace resident Alisha Onslow, who with Corlette's Sarah Ekins has formed Cimate Action Port Stephens (CAPS) and initiated a petition in an attempt to get Port Stephens council to jump on board, said the time was right.

"I attended the protest rally in Newcastle last Friday and it was heartening to see the number of students and adults out in force. Just in the past week there have been seven more Australian councils to declare a climate emergency including Tweed Shire, taking the total number to 53 in Australia and 1026 worldwide," Ms Onslow said.

Port Stephens Greens convenor Les Pinney said that the council needed to show leadership on climate solutions.

"All levels of government need to play their part in addressing the urgent need for action to address the risks from human induced climate change," he said.

"The increased frequency and intensity of damaging storms, floods and bushfires must surely be the final wake-up call."

"The powerful message sent loud and clear by young people around the world last week should spur even those who still doubt the science into taking precautionary action. The latest reports from credible international bodies confirm the accelerating rate of global warming."