Should Council’s focus be on Carbon Zero or Carbon Credits? That was the unanswered question debated by Council last night. Can one be achieved without the other?
Cr Jack Gaffey, one of our new Councillors, has hit the ground running, moving several motions on notice in the three council meetings of the new Council. He moved two last night, one being to alter the goal set by the previous Council on being carbon neutral from our own activities by December this year.
This is a motion that sparked the interest of around a dozen ratepayers, sending me (and I presume all elected members) emails admonishing such an action. Notwithstanding this, the motion was passed 7 to 4.
The major argument I heard from those who voted “against” was that the previous goal was based on research and on strong data on how it would be implemented. That changing the time goal was unjustified and not warranted because it lacked research and the necessary data. Cr Gaffey’s argument can be seen in the Council agenda papers.
What I then heard is those who voted “for” claimed the exact reverse. That the goal now being sought was in fact the goal recommended by our Administration back then. That this was what was researched with strong data. And that the 2023 goal was indeed unresearched and was missing supporting data.
Of interest to me was two of those voting for the motion made an observation that I share. That concerned what they heard from ratepayers during the election campaign.
The message the three of us heard was that while those ratepayers applauded Council for setting carbon-neutral goals, they don’t want their rates going outside the Council area. In other words, they want their rates to go to Unley-specific projects.
When it comes therefore to carbon zero vs carbon credits, they said yes to carbon zero. But not by way of carbon credits.
Also of interest was the claim that planting a forest in Unley does not impact your carbon-neutral statute but purchasing carbon credits to plant a forest elsewhere does. This seems nonsensical and something that clearly needs to be confirmed.
Most, if not all members spoke to this motion. My contribution can be seen below.
I find myself questioning what we are actually debating.
A goal for carbon neutrality or the method of achieving the goal. We all on council want to be carbon neutral as soon as we can get there.
Setting goals are an appropriate inclusion in any strategy or policy. The last Council rejected the original goal of 2030 our admin recommended by the most ambitious goal that can be set. Zero by December 2023. That is but 10 months away and we have yet to set our budgets. We, therefore, do not know if we can achieve the goal or not.
I had expected that our budget process would deal with this. How would achieving zero carbon impact the budget? How much will it cost us? Can this only be achieved with carbon credits? If so, how much.
Will our ratepayers accept paying this amount (whatever it is) on projects outside our City?
This motion I believe seeks to pre-empt whether we can’t achieve the goal, at least without a heavy focus on purchasing carbon credits.
I think this is the true challenge here. Can we achieve carbon neutrality without purchasing carbon credits? Our admin indicated last year that this would not be the case, albeit in the final couple of years of the 2030 goal.
Members may be aware of a blog post I wrote last November 17.
In it, I noted that many of my ratepayers in Clarence Park were not keen that their rates would be directed to carbon credits. It was the second largest concern behind footpath trip hazards. I made a promise back then to ensure Council was aware of this when considering the budget. I do so now in light of this motion being moved.
With this in mind, I had anticipated that we would have an option in our budget for the purchasing of carbon credits that we could put out for public comment. Something that might pique interest in our budget unlike ever before.
That said, I am working my way toward how to vote. Given the admin goal of 2030 was researched and had detailed plans on how to achieve it, whereas the 2023 goal had no such structure, I will support the motion.
In so doing I am of the belief that what we ultimately need is for the admin to research how we might achieve differing time goals.
By so doing we in Council can be better informed and able to make more sound decisions. Decisions the whole of our community can respect.
PS A record of who voted how in the carbon zero vs carbon credits debate will be available on the Council’s website possibly Thursday when the minutes are posted online.