Moreland Council supports a Climate Disaster Levy

March 11, 2021 at 11:07 am 1 comment

Climate Disater Levy on Fossil Fuel Exports

Moreland Council voted unanimously at the March 2021 Council Meeting to advocate to the Premier of Victoria to request his support and advocacy for a Federal Climate Disaster Levy, as proposed by The Australia Institute.

This was included in a Councillor nominated motion on Climate Risk and preparing the Council Plan. Assessing Climate risk and formulating climate policy directions to reduce emissions, and protect citizens, will be an important consideration as the new Council formulates its 4 year Council Plan.

There was also a report presented on draft zero carbon planning reforms that was supported by Council. The Design Excellence Scorecard trial will also continue to its conclusion in September 2021.

Cr Bolton suggested adding reference to heatwaves to give a specific threat faced by Moreland Residents, which was accepted by the motion mover. Council’s motion reads (the exact phasing with the amnedment may be very slighlty different)

That Council:
1. Acts consistently with Section 9(2)(c) of the Local Government Act 2020, and refers for consideration and incorporation in the Council Plan:
a) An assessment of current and future climate risks facing the Moreland community; and
b) Actions that Council and other levels of government must take to provide maximum protection for people, property and the natural environment in response to assessed climate risks, including heatwaves.

2. Writes to the Premier to request his support and advocacy for a Federal Climate Disaster Levy, as proposed by The Australia Institute.

3. Forwards a copy of this decision and letter to all local State and Federal Upper and Lower House Members of Parliament, all Victorian Mayors, the Municipal Association of Victoria, Victorian Local Governance Association and Climate Emergency Australia, and requests that they take similar action and advocacy.

The Australia Institute lists these key points on the Disaster Levy:

  • Natural disasters exacerbated by climate change such as fires, floods and heatwaves already cost Australians tens of billions of dollars per annum. This damage bill is rapidly increasing as climate change accelerates.
  • Ordinary Australian households and businesses, either directly or through taxes, currently pay all the costs of climate disasters.
  • Fossil fuel consumption remains the largest contributor to climate change and fossil fuel producers pay virtually none of the costs climate disasters.
  • Australia is the third largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world and these exporters pay little if any local tax.
  • The Australia Institute is proposing a National Climate Disaster Levy initially set at $1 per tonne of embodied carbon on all fossil fuel exports from Australia.
  • A $1 levy would:
    • Raise around $1.3 billion per annum to be used entirely to assist communities to respond to and recover from climate disasters
    • Have no effect on energy prices in Australia as the levy is only on fossil fuel exports (which make up three quarters of fossil fuel production).
    • See a net increase in employment as revenue is directed from capitalintensive coal and gas mining towards more labour intensive sectors including construction, health and social services.
  • According to the Climate of the Nation 2020 report, over three out of five (65%) support a levy on fossil fuel exports to pay for climate disasters, with one out of five (21%) opposed.

Quick intro video

Richie Merzian, Climate and Energy Program Director of the Australia Institute commented in a media release in November 2020:

“Last summer’s unprecedented Black Summer bushfires exposed just how unprepared all levels of government are to meet the costs of bushfire crises. Currently, the burden of natural disaster costs falls almost entirely on ordinary Australian households and businesses. Whether it’s through higher rates and taxes, property damage, higher insurance premiums, disruption to our lives or impacts on our health. This is neither fair nor equitable,” said Richie Merzian, climate & energy program director at the Australia Institute.

“A National Climate Disaster Levy would help to begin shifting the economic burden of climate disasters from our at-risk regional communities to the global coal and gas companies that are creating the problem in the first place.

“It is clear there is growing community concern for how we as a community pay for the costs of climate related disasters. The Australia Institute’s Climate of the Nation 2020 report found that support the introduction of a fossil fuel levy to pay for the impacts of climate change is growing, with 65% of Australians now supporting such a levy and only 21% opposed.

“A modest $1 levy would at least begin to raise revenue from those profiting from climate change. Industries that face enormous costs as a result of climate change, including agriculture and tourism could then benefit from the national fund assisting with disaster recovery and building resilience. If we continue with the status quo, businesses and everyday Australians will continue to pay the high price for the impacts of climate change that are being fuelled by fossil producers.

“It is a fundamental principle of economics that companies profiting from activities that cause damage to others should pay the costs of that damage.”

Disaster Levy – Taxes paid by fossil fuel exporters

Disaster Levy – projected revenue from a levy on fossil fuel exports

An in depth one hour discussion of the Disaster Levy was recorded at the Webinar on why Australia needs a Climate Disaster levy (November 2020), with Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, bushfire survivor Fiona Lee, former Deputy Commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW Ken Thompson for a discussion about the need for a National Climate Disaster Levy, in conversation with Mark Ogge, Principal Advisor at the Australia Institute.

Progress on zero carbon Planning reforms and environmentally sustainable development

Council also passed Draft Environmentally Sustainable Development Planning Reforms. These continue the push to further zero carbon emissions in the planning scheme through a future planning amendment.

This is quite important. Moreland Council is working with other Councils on this action to embed reforms on energy, transport, waste and materials in the planning scheme. It will require the State Government and the Planning Minister to also step up to get these implemented.

The Officer Recommendation was adopted (and I believe it was unanimous):

That Council:
1. Endorses the submission to the State Government’s Environmentally Sustainable Development Planning Reforms Roadmap, at Attachments 1, 2, 3 and 4 to this report.
2. Writes to the Minister for Planning confirming Council’s endorsement of the submission at Attachments 1,2,3 and 4 to this report.
3. Writes to the Minister of Planning requesting a meeting with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor to outline the benefits to the community of introducing zero carbon focused planning policy into the Planning Scheme, and how this should be considered in the State Government’s environmentally sustainable development planning reforms.

The Council Officer report explains the importance of this item in the executive summary:

In January 2021, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) released a Roadmap for State environmentally sustainable development (ESD) planning reforms for consultation. The proposed planning reforms seek to expand State ESD policy within planning schemes across Victoria for the environmental categories of waste and recycling; cooling of the urban environment; active and sustainable transport; air and noise pollution; energy efficiency of buildings and renewable energy usage; stormwater management; and water usage.

The timelines for providing feedback to the draft reforms did not correspond with Council reporting timeframes. As a result, Council officer feedback was submitted to DELWP to meet the due date of 26 February 2021. This submission noted that a further submission would be provided by Council in March following the Council’s consideration of the submission in order to provide an opportunity to incorporate any changes sought by Council while still meeting the submission deadline.

The submission at Attachment 1, with appendices at Attachment 2, 3 and 4 supports DELWP’s work in expanding ESD policy within the Planning Scheme and outlines a number of opportunities to expand the reforms to achieve better sustainability outcomes for the State. The submission also requests Council’s involvement in the Stakeholder Reference Working Group being set up to assist in the development of these reforms.

In 2018, Council resolved to pursue actions to achieve zero carbon in the Moreland Planning Scheme to continue Moreland’s proud history for improved environmental planning outcomes. Moreland’s project to achieve zero carbon in the planning scheme generally aligns with the work being undertaken by DELWP, however as set out in the submission, there are opportunities to expand the proposed DELWP reforms.

Council officers have been working towards developing a suite of planning policy reforms to achieve a zero carbon planning scheme in collaboration with Councils from the Council Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments (CASBE). The projects Moreland has been leading have focussed on developing planning objectives and standards for renewable energy (solar PV) and electric vehicle infrastructure within new development. New urban ecology, green infrastructure, and waste and circular economy measures have also been developed through the inter-council collaboration. These measures are currently being reviewed to deliver a new set of objectives and standards fit for planning. Changes to the Moreland Planning Scheme to include elevated policy direction for ESD in is on track for consideration by Council mid-2021.

Design Excellence Scorecard
There were also two competing Councillor motions on the Design Excellence Scorecard trial. Councillors voted for the current scorecard trial to progress to its end date in September 2021.

To date there has only been a very limited number of development applications that have used the scorecard. Most Developers continue to use the existing application process.

The Design Excellence scorecard allows developers to streamline their application processing (saving time and money), but only if strict criteria are met providing improvements above the average in all the areas of Building design and materials, Environmentally sustainable design and building performance, Building accessibility, and Community benefit.

It does come with some less opportunity for citizen objections through the Council approval process, but it does not remove objection rights through VCAT.

Read more on the Design Excellence Scorecard at Moreland Council.

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