What is the GCoM initiative?
The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) is a global alliance for city climate leadership. There are more than 9,200 cities, including 26 from Australia, that have joined GCoM. It’s the largest global initiative of its kind.
GCoM recognises the greenhouse gas emissions budget set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement and seeks to introduce a science-based emissions reduction target.
This science-based approach is reflected in the work undertaken by a GCoM-accredited consultancy firm to measure our city’s current rate of greenhouse gas generation and set our city-wide emissions reduction target.
What are Council’s obligations under the GCoM?
Under the GCoM framework Council is required to meet the following key milestones:
- Complete an emissions inventory and climate hazards assessment within one year.
- Establish an emissions reduction target and complete a climate vulnerability assessment within two years. The vulnerability assessment will identify our key risks and weaknesses in regard to climate change.
- Develop an emissions reduction action plan and a climate change adaptation plan within three years. These plans will guide us in achieving the emissions reduction target and adapting our community to future climatic changes.
What is an emissions inventory? What does our emissions inventory look like?
An emission inventory is essentially a stocktake of our city’s current greenhouse gas generation by source and sector, which shows how and where emissions are being generated.
Across the local government area, our largest source of emissions is electricity and gas generation, which is also known as stationary energy.
Stationary energy makes up 78 percent of our emissions. Given our strong industry base, up to 72 percent of our community’s total emissions are from industry related activities.
What does net zero emissions mean and how does our target compare to other participating Councils?
Under the GCoM initiative, Council will work with all sectors of the community to reduce emissions as close as possible to net zero. Net zero emissions means emissions released will be balanced by carbon storage, things like planting trees or purchasing offsets. The more emissions are reduced, the less carbon capture and storage is needed to achieve net zero.
Reaching net zero emissions is a core action of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming. Our target of net zero emissions by 2050 is shared by the NSW State Government and major Australian cities like City of Sydney and Adelaide who have also signed up to the GCoM initiative.
Does the target relate to Council activities?
Yes. We’ve been working for a number of years to respond to the impact of climate change. Through the GCoM we will develop a Council-focussed action plan to reduce greenhouse gas generation in line with the emission reduction target.
We will also fill a stewardship and advocacy role to assist the community, business and industry to reduce their emissions.
Why is a community target required?
Emissions reduction is a global problem that requires whole of community action.
While Council’s operations are responsible for only 5 percent of our city-wide emissions, the community target sets a clear pathway towards a shared sustainable future to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The community target also allows for collaboration between city industries that are introducing efficiency improvements and reducing emissions through renewable energy.
How can a net zero emissions target be met? What are the ramifications upon industry if the target is not met?
There are several different pathways that we as a community can take to reduce emissions. This includes renewable energy sources, reducing waste, energy efficiency programs, reducing transport emissions and carbon capture technologies. As technology evolves we will be seeking opportunities to use it to assist in achieving our target.
While the community target for emissions reduction is aspirational, we’re expected to strive and do our best to meet it.
That said, the GCoM isn’t about penalising for non-compliance as maintaining business viability and local employment is also critical to creating a healthy and sustainable community.
Will the target result in the loss of jobs?
The increased investment in the renewable energy sector has the potential to provide more jobs for Wollongong. Council has recently endorsed an Economic Development Strategy that aims to generate 10,500 new jobs in the next decade in the knowledge-intensive, high value, high skilled sectors.
Mining operations in Wollongong are for metallurgical coal used in steel making, which unlike thermal coal, has far less greenhouse emissions. Metallurgical coal is not affected by an emissions reduction target.
Will the target be used to assess new industrial / mining proposals?
It is not intended to introduce the target as a consideration when assessing new or expanding industrial operations.
Submissions relating to new or expanded industrial activities made by the community may refer to the emissions target.
It should be noted that the State Government is generally the approval or regulatory authority for large-scale industry or mining proposals.