Carbon neutral for council

Solar panel power: Katy McMurray, Roy Tasker, Gary Cagonoff (with children Edan and Alina) and Clare Power all spoke at the council meeting. With Cr Kerry Brown, Heather Ginges, Teya and David Brooks at Echo Point.
Solar panel power: Katy McMurray, Roy Tasker, Gary Cagonoff (with children Edan and Alina) and Clare Power all spoke at the council meeting. With Cr Kerry Brown, Heather Ginges, Teya and David Brooks at Echo Point.

Blue Mountains Council hopes to be carbon neutral within six years.

A plan to achieve the goal through a combination of emissions reductions and buying carbon offsets was passed unanimously at the council meeting last week.

It was supported by a number of speakers from organisations including the Conservation Society, Extinction Rebellion, Plant-based Food Action Group and Planet Ark.

The speakers suggested a variety of measures council could adopt, including serving plant-based food at functions, using felled trees for building, carpentry or gardens rather than wood chips, and harvesting otherwise wasted rainwater.

Council has been working for some years to reduce its emissions and has seen a 22 per cent reduction since 2015. It is continuing to adopt greener practices, such as replacing inefficient lights in its facilities and replacing street lights with LEDs.

Council is also installing 289 kW of roof top solar panels across a number of its buildings. Panels are already on the Cultural Centre and the visitors information centre at Echo Point (pictured).

Key to the success of council's plan is its Carbon Revolving Reserve.

This pays for emission-reducing projects then the savings made (in the form of lower power bills etc) are ploughed back into the reserve to use on the next project.

The possibility of council becoming carbon neutral was raised by Greens councillor, Kerry Brown, at the March meeting, a month after Blue Mountains became the third council in Australia to declare a climate emergency.

Cr Brown said the biggest challenge was waste management "which accounts for 75 per cent of our emissions from landfill and from our green waste being trucked to Blayney for composting".

"I hope we can turn our waste management into resource management here in the Mountains. It's only waste if we don't re-use it."

She noted that upgrading the council fleet to solar powered electric vehicles would also substantially reduce costs and emissions.

"In the meantime I would like us to introduce incentives so that staff and councillors are encouraged to use public transport, bicycles or their feet when practical for council-related trips."

The mayor, Mark Greenhill, said council had heeded international warnings about climate change.

"It seems clear the single most important thing we can do to stop climate change is reduce emissions.

"Council is constantly looking for opportunities to improve our operations and make sure sustainability is part of everything we do, and targets like this one are an effective way to encourage further improvement," he said.