A lively discussion between Wagga Wagga city councillors debating the potential “punitive measures” of a proposed Net Zero 2050 climate roadmap left the council split during last night’s (17 July) meeting.
The new roadmap is intended to give members of the community insight into pathways available to engage in climate solutions with the goal of reaching the NSW Government-set zero emissions by 2050 target.
According to the plans, major factors include: energy – the generation of energy for power and heat makes up 52 per cent of the city’s emissions; transport – totalling 31 per cent of the LGA’s emissions; and agriculture – contributing 19 per cent.
Other factors include waste, accounting for 6 per cent, and industrial process and product use (IPPU) with, 4 per cent.
The plans make several recommendations for adjustments on how individuals and businesses can contribute to the net-zero target, but the breadth of the plans left several councillors, including Cr Richard Foley, concerned about the potential punitive measures the roadmap may cause.
Cr Foley raised an amendment to the roadmap document clarifying that businesses that did not take the advised action would not be punished.
“I don’t want to see people paying through the nose for things they could do voluntarily … that’s Orwellian, if you ask me,” Cr Foley said.
“I wanted the intent of the document from the outset to clearly show this is not about a regulatory compliance approach to this issue.”
Deputy Mayor Jenny McKinnon opposed the rewording of the document, stating its purpose was already clear.
Ultimately, the amendment was overturned, with Mayor Dallas Tout voting to sustain the original copy following a split vote.
After the debate, only Cr Michael Henderson voted against implementing the roadmap, saying that he believed the document was premature.
“Until the Government can come up and declare their policy, I don’t believe we should even be debating this,” he said.
“This is 2050 – we haven’t even got to 2030 yet … I really can’t support this.”
Local business owner Richard Moffatt from Meccanico Espresso and Wine has also voiced concerns that the push to Net Zero could negatively impact small businesses that are already doing it tough.
“The opinion of most small businesses around Wagga is that there is too much red tape with policy changes increasing the cost to open or operate a business,” Mr Moffatt said.
“In regards to the emissions plan, I feel sometimes the local council needs a bit of a reality check. One town’s emissions aren’t going to affect the entire planet’s greenhouse output.
“Small businesses are the engine room of the Australian economy and right now we aren’t getting the support we need.”