Climate change in Alexandrina
The effects of climate change are already being felt across our community with:
- increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves
- increase in average temperature
- lower rainfall and decrease of winter rainfall
- increase in intensity of rainfall events
- increase in intensity of bushfires
- increased coastal hazards such as erosion and flooding related to sea level rise combined with storms.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) 5th Assessment Report shows that that human influence on the climate system is clear. In its recent Special Report, the IPCC details the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
Our region is part of the Murray Basin and climate projections indicate that average temperatures will continue to increase with more hot days and warm spells. Rainfall will decline, interspersed with heavy rainfall intensities. You can find out more about climate change projections for our region on the Australian Government’s Climate Change in Australia website here.
Learn how Alexandrina Council is becoming climate ready
Alexandrina Council takes climate change seriously. This is why we prepare for, and respond to, a changing climate by reducing and recording our greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and by becoming more resilient to changes by altering our behaviour and systems (adaptation).
What is Council doing?
We understand that adaptation will not be able to eliminate all negative impacts of climate change and hence, mitigation is crucial to limit changes in the climate system. By being pro-active and combining mitigation and adaption strategies, Council, businesses and our community will be in a better position to manage the challenges of climate change and take advantage of any opportunities.
Council’s responses to climate change are guided by the strategic directions described in our Regional Climate Change Adaptation Plan, our Environmental Action Plan 2014-2018, as well as the Climate Emergency Declaration made at the December 2019 meeting of Council.
Learn more about Council’s different climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies below.
At its meeting of 16 December 2019, Alexandrina Council supported a climate emergency declaration (CED) providing the organisation with a clear mandate to place climate change at the forefront of local action. A CED is a decision that recognises the science, acknowledges the serious risks of climate change to our community, economy and ecosystems; and makes a commitment to act. Details of the declaration are as follows:
- Declares that we are in a state of climate emergency and acknowledges that unless all levels of government take action and lead their communities to restore a safe climate, there will be further dramatic and negative impacts on our community and globally.
- Notes that it is still possible to restore a safe climate and prevent most of the anticipated long-term climate impacts – but only if all levels of government around the globe adopt an emergency mode of action, actively working with their communities, to restore a safe and healthy planet at the necessary scale and speed.
- Will actively collaborate with and advocate for neighbouring local governments, state governments and the federal government to join with us by accelerating the adoption of a climate emergency response and developing their own Climate Emergency Plan.
- Will write to State and Federal Members of Parliament who represent the Alexandrina Council region, advising them of Council’s resolution and request they also act with urgency to address climate change.
- In accordance with the above declaration; assigns a high priority to the following climate emergency responses in the 2020-21 Annual Business Plan and Budget deliberation process namely;
- Creation of a Climate Emergency Advisory Committee of Council (as per section 41 of the LGA) and related Secretariat support;
- Allocation of additional resources and staffing to apply for grants and utilise rebates to develop and implement projects and programs including:
- Initiation of climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives eg. energy reduction, and carbon sequestration programs.
- Development and implementation of a Climate Emergency Plan as part of Council’s strategic planning framework.
- Reviewing existing Council policies and plans with a view to facilitating a climate emergency response.
- Rolling out staff and public education and support-building a campaign in order to achieve broad community support for the move into climate emergency mode.
We have been measuring our emissions each year since 2015, but as our population has increased, so have our emissions. This means we have a lot of work to do reduce the carbon intensity of the services we provide.
Council’s largest electricity users are the Fleurieu Regional Aquatic Centre, streetlights, buildings (administration and libraries), followed by wastewater treatment and pumping. Hence, in 2020-21, in addition to setting an emissions reduction target, we will be installing solar panels on 220kw of solar on Council libraries and depots in Goolwa and Strathalbyn. We are also investigating swapping our streetlights over to LEDs.
Learn more about on how Council is monitoring and reducing Council’s carbon emissions below.
Alexandrina Council releases greenhouse gasses (or GHG for short) as a part of day to day operations, servicing the residents and communities of the region. From the electricity used to light our roads, buildings and community centres, to the petrol burnt by trucks transporting waste to depots, Alexandrina Council is responsible for producing GHG emissions.
Carbon emissions (CO2) are part of GHG, together with methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone. GHG gases in the atmosphere absorb and re-emit heat, thereby keeping the planet's atmosphere warmer than it otherwise would be.
In order for our Council to successfully reduce its corporate emissions, they must be able to be accurately monitored. Alexandrina Council has been actively monitoring our emissions since 2015.
Council’s largest electricity users are the Fleurieu Regional Aquatic Centre, streetlights, buildings (mainly admin and libraries), followed by wastewater treatment and pumping. As can be seen in Figure 1 and Figure 2, a significant portion of Council’s emissions is attributed to electricity usage, followed closely by transportation (transport fuel).
Figure 1: Council’s emissions since 2015: Electricity, fuel and other (e.g. waste disposal, paper and water use)
Figure 2: Council’s emission by facility groups
GHG emissions are measured as tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalence (tCO2-e). The ‘GHG Corporate Standard’ classifies a company's GHG emissions into three 'scopes'. For our corporate emissions this means:
- Scope 1 = Direct emissions from Council (i.e. transport fuels);
- Scope 2 = Indirect emissions generated by electricity consumed by Council (i.e. street lights, council buildings); and
- Scope 3 = Indirect emissions as a result of Council’s activities, but not from sources owned or controlled by council (i.e. waste disposal, paper and water use).
Alexandrina’s scope emissions are illustrated in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Council emissions by scope (2015 – 2020)
As can be seen in Figures 1 and 3 Council’s emissions have risen since 2015. This is due to several reasons such as: a population increase of over 5% since 2014 resulting in an expansion of services; the addition of the Fleurieu Regional Aquatic Centre; and a change in how emissions are calculated. Despite this, Council is dedicated to reducing its corporate emissions in the future. Learn more about on how Council is reducing Council’s carbon emissions below.
Council actively reduces the amount of GHG we emit into the atmosphere by targeting our most emissions intensive buildings for solar energy and using, where possible, electric cars in our fleet. By doing this, Council saves an estimated 130 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
For example, the exiting 20kW solar power system located at the Goolwa Depot, has not only offset an estimated 25.5 tonnes of CO2 per year since being turned on in 2015, but it has also saved council over $65,000 in the same period. Increasing the Council’s solar capacity will also significantly reduce electricity costs in the future.
To reduce further our corporate emissions, Council is currently introducing more energy efficient technologies, such as LED lighting and additional solar systems on Council libraries and depots in Goolwa and Strathalbyn. In August 2020, LED lighting was installed in the Goolwa Administration and Library Building; and in 2021 four solar systems will be installed on our libraries and work depots in Goolwa and Strathalbyn, totalling an output of 200 kW under ideal weather conditions.
A decrease of energy use should be visible in our 2020/2021 carbon reporting period. It should also be noted that these carbon-saving initiatives also have the added benefit of cost saving in the long-term.
Transport fuel is also a major source of carbon emissions. By incorporating more efficient vehicles, such as hybrid and electric vehicles into the Council’s fleet where practical, the carbon and financial cost of transport will reduce.
Council has actively involved the community in responding to climate change for many years. Some recent examples include:
- Community Energy Forum
- Climate Ready Communities training
- Passive House Seminar
- Extending library hours during extreme heat events to provide a cool and safe place for residents and visitors to relax
- Public electric vehicle charging stations installed in Goolwa and Strathalbyn .
The Alexandrina coastline is of significant cultural, social, environmental and economic value to the local community, Ngarrindjeri nation and visitors to the region. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise. In our region, sea levels have been rising on average at 4-5mm per year and the rate of change is projected to increase over coming decades. As a result, Council commissioned a Coastal Adaptation Study to find out how people, the natural environment and built assets might be impacted by rising sea levels.
Where We Build, What We Build
As natural hazards intensify, living expenses like energy, mortgages and insurance will get more expensive for climate vulnerable homes – that is, homes that are in high-risk areas and have not been built to mitigate those risks.
The Where We Build What We Build project aims to encourage building or retrofitting of homes that are climate-ready, by demonstrating that the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.
One of the goals of the Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula region is to remain liveable, affordable and resilient in the changing climate, by better managing climate risks.
To help achieve this, the project explored:
- Where We Build – the exposure of the region's existing housing to flood, heat and bushfire risks
- What We Build – the sensitivity of the region's existing housing to those risks
- Climate-Ready Home – the ideal specification for a climate-ready home in the region
- Economic Analysis – the costs and benefits of building or retrofitting to climate-ready specifications, compared with existing housing stock and standards.
The economic benefits of climate-ready homes outweigh the costs for both new builds and retrofits. Meanwhile, vulnerable housing leads to higher living costs and lower community resilience.
Over a 50-year period, the net present value of immediately retrofitting the region's housing stock to a climate-ready standard is estimated at over $72 million.
The building stock in the region varies significantly in terms of its resilience to natural hazards. Overall, 70% of the 2,956 homes in regional climate hazard hotspots had a resilience rating of less than 3 out of 5.
There is already information available to know how to build or retrofit climate-ready homes, but current baseline building compliance needs to be further improved to provide climate resilience.
With insurance premiums expected to quadruple over the next 20 years, the changing cost of insurance will influence how we build and retrofit homes. A climate-ready home can attract a premium 8.5% lower than a contemporary home, and up to 47% lower than a Victorian home. Agreed climate-ready standards should be developed with the insurance industry, enabling them to provide preferential insurance products.
Poor quality natural hazard data impacts insurance premiums. South Australians pay an estimated 18% too much for home insurance premiums because of data uncertainties. This finding supports the need for a centrally coordinated, jointly resourced hazard mapping framework in South Australia to overcome these knowledge gaps and encourage climate resilient decision-making.
The insurance industry uses maps on natural hazard risk, and information on construction materials and design, to judge the probability and size of an insurance claim arising from climate hazards. This information is used to set insurance premiums. It is expected that insurance premiums will rise as hazard exposure increases under climate change. In climate exposed areas, the increase can be significant enough to help justify greater use of climate resilient materials in new or retrofitted homes.
Maps generated from the project can be accessed at http://edge.endevgeo.com/ (project: wwbwwb).
Key projects outcomes can be found in the following fact sheets:
- Project overview
- Regional climate hazard mapping
- Regional housing archetypes
- How to build climate ready homes
- Climate resilient materials
- Guide for planners
More detailed information on the methods and results are contained in the final project report .
The project is an initiative of Resilient Hills & Coasts, delivered by Edge Environment. It was jointly funded by the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments under the South Australian Disaster Resilience Grant Program, and the Insurance Council of Australia. Partner Councils were the Adelaide Hills Council, Alexandrina Council, District Council of Mount Barker, City of Victor Harbor and District Council of Yankalilla. The views and findings of this project are expressed independently and do not necessarily represent the views of the funding bodies.
While we work on a local level to adapt to and mitigate climate change impacts, we also understand that responding to climate change requires regional, state and nationwide collaboration. Hence, Alexandrina Council is part of a larger network of Councils:
- Resilient Hills and Coasts : a collaborative, cross-sector partnership between councils, Landscape Boards, Regional Development Australia and the South Australian Government, working to strengthen the resilience of our communities, economies and natural and built environments to a changing climate. The partnership developed the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island region of South Australia, and is now implementing the plan.
- Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership: a network of Australian councils committed to tackling climate change. This program aims to help councils reduce their emissions, switch to cleaner energy and build greener, efficient and more resilient communities.
Climate change can be overwhelming, but there are simple steps that allow everyone to help mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts, one step at a time. Not all steps suit everyone but every little bit helps. Some examples could include:
- Use energy wisely: unplug unused appliances; use renewable and cleaner sources of energy; sign up for green power; use solar power, or change to HFC free fridges and air conditioners
- Reduce your car use
- Change your diet: grow your own; or use less meat; or don’t waste food
- Consume less
- Reuse and repurpose clothes
- Plant shading trees in your garden and keep the lawn green – the Urban Heat Mapping Adelaide Metropolitan Area showed how these steps can cool your neighbourhood and help mitigate heat stress
- Start a climate conversation or join like-minded people, such as the Australian Red Cross Climate-ready communities .