This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands.
– Barack Obama
The evidence for climate change is overwhelming. Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Spring is arriving earlier, and summers in both hemispheres are hotter. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heatwaves are getting worse, as are extreme storm events. The oceans are acidifying. These environmental changes have impacts on humans – hunger, disease, drought and flooding are likely to worsen, as are the resulting conflicts and refugee crises.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is already seeing the effects of climate change, and further impacts are predicted. In particular, we expect:
- lower rainfall, which will affect water availability and quality, water-dependent ecosystems, agriculture and recreational amenity
- higher temperatures and increased fire risk, which will affect human health and property, and vulnerable ecosystems
- more extreme weather events, which will affect property and ecosystems.
However, the impact of climate change on the population will depend on the degree to which we can mitigate the degree of change and increase our resilience to change that now cannot be avoided.
Climate change action must be tackled at local, regional and national levels, but cities may be best placed to take serious action and play a leadership role in the reduction of greenhouse gases. In taking this path, they can realise the opportunities inherent in the task of transforming economic activity. Both mitigation and adaptation are needed. Mitigation is required to reduce carbon pollution to limit the degree of climate change, and adaptation is needed to limit the impacts of climate change.
The ACT Government, with strong community support, is responding robustly and constructively to the challenge. It has developed and is implementing mitigation strategies and is working on an adaptation strategy.
It has legislated greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets that are not only consistent with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but are also the most ambitious targets in Australia. The ACT Government has also legislated an actions plan for achieving these targets. Current projections show that the ACT is on track to achieve its target commitment. This demonstrates that we, as a community working together, can make a positive contribution to the global climate change mitigation effort by demonstrating that the move to a less carbon-intensive society is feasible.
Adaptation is well supported politically, and progress has been made on collaborative work to build knowledge and develop responses. A coordinated action plan is still to be released.