Cr Jennifer Alden. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

Councillor Jennifer Alden spoke about the risks to the health and wellbeing of Bendigo residents due to climate breakdown on Wednesday.

“Locally, Loddon Mallee is getting hotter and drier,” Cr Alden said.

“Action to address these issues needs to be rapid. Business as usual will not provide solutions to needed change,” Cr Alden said.

Citing a recent Biodiversity and Ecosystem services report, Cr Alden said that as many as one million species could be lost in coming decades due to habitat loss, land use practices and pressures of climate change.

Council already has environment and sustainability measures in place, such as the Council’s Environment Strategy 2016-21 and a target of 50 per cent carbon reduction by 2020.

“We have an environmental strategy, a plan to reduce our waste streams and emergency management plans for environment crises. So many plans,” Cr Alden said.

“What we don’t have is a system that can most accurately reflect where our funds are best spent in providing the ultimate in liveability,” Cr Alden said.

The motion was not met with unanimous support, with councillor Malcolm Pethybridge voting against it and councillors Matt Emond and George Flake abstaining.

Cr Pethybridge said the motion forecasts a future this is unproven.

“What are we doing traumatising people with things that we can’t prove?” Cr Pethybridge said.

The councillor said he wants to see as many as 20 jumbo jets flying into Bendigo in the future and wouldn’t want climate change to hinder the region’s growth.

“We’re only little Bendigo in little Australia. We can’t convince the whole world, but we do need to do things smartly,” Cr Pethybridge said.

Cr Yvonne Wrigglesworth took exception to Cr Pethybridge’s remark about Bendigo’s size and the impact it can have on this issue.

“If we have the opinion that as small we can’t do big things, we won’t be able to shift our thinking and progress,” Cr Wrigglesworth said.

In discussing why he was abstaining from the vote, Cr Emond sought further detail.

“I agree in principle with some of the ideas, but I would like more substantial reports before we come around the table,” Cr Emond said.

In its response in the council agenda, a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the municipality would require a substantial and behavioural change by residents and businesses.

“While the council can and should play a leadership and advocacy role, many initiatives will require support from the federal and state governments,” the report said.

– NICHOLAS NAKOS