No Australian community is untouched by climate change.
Our country is highly exposed to impacts including record-breaking heat, more dangerous bushfire seasons, coastal flooding and supercharged storms. These extreme weather events are worsening, and the impacts are reverberating throughout our communities.
As the level of government closest to the community, councils are at the heart of responding to climate impacts. When disaster strikes, local governments work closely with communities to cope and respond. They are also often left with the task of cleaning up - and paying for - the mess, while delivering the essential services many residents rely on.
We have a choice about how much worse we're willing to let things get. But the latest science makes it clear there is no time to waste. Every fraction of a degree of avoided global warming makes a difference, and our success will be measured in lives, communities, properties, species and economies saved. There is only one solution: a concerted effort to make immediate, deep and sustained greenhouse gas emission cuts.
While climate action at a federal level has stagnated, local governments are just getting on with it. For many councils, this is part of their core work. Within the Cities Power Partnership, more than 150 councils are united in their desire to look after communities by responding to climate change.
From Margaret River to Hepburn, and from Byron Bay to Cairns, cities and towns across Australia are cutting their emissions, switching to clean energy and building greener, more efficient and resilient communities. The momentum is tangible and benefits like cleaner cities and healthier communities are there for the taking.
But councils can't do it alone.
A new report, Neighbour Issue: Climate costs and risks to councils, by the Climate Council and Cities Power Partnership revealed more support and funding is needed to support local government to cope with the costs of climate change. If we want communities to have long-term economic security and resilience, state, territory and federal governments must put resources and policies in place that actually protect them.
Further, a dramatic increase in funding for local government climate change mitigation and adaptation work is desperately needed.
With the right support in place they can be ambitious, collaborative and action-orientated in creating the safe and thriving communities we all desire.
- Dr Portia Odell is director of Cities Power Partnership, Australia's largest network of local councils working together for a zero emissions future.