Flattening the curve on emissions

Covid-19 poses a significant challenge and opportunity to transition our economy to a more just and sustainable model. Z-NET is working on this transition, starting with our Shire.

This article originally featured in the Wombat Post on April 17 2020.

In March this year, Hepburn Shire community members came together to make a human sign calling for the Victorian State Government to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees by setting strong Emission Reduction Targets for 2025 and 2030. Shortly after this 200 person gathering, the COVID-19 crisis reached a quick and sudden turning point, forcing borders to close, schools to shut down and community members to socially distance themselves from loved ones and neighbours. This crisis has changed the lives of many and shifted the focus from mitigating bushfires and climate change to mitigating a pandemic.

COVID-19 has triggered the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression and with it, emissions from business, manufacturing, flights and freight transport have all contracted. Some estimates suggest that the pandemic may cause annual global emissions to fall between 4-10%, the biggest decrease in the past century. Whilst this is a relief, particularly after a summer of bushfires, to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees, global emissions need to decrease 6% annually. We have work to do.

There is a challenge facing communities and their representatives, to create a pathway out of the COVID-19 crisis that does not risk a return to ‘business as usual’. Stimulus packages could target clean technologies, efficient transportation and housing, sustainable and human-centered planning – creating jobs and growth in the industries we need, rather than the carbon-heavy industries we have. These investments should be coupled with long term visionary policy and targets, such as Victoria’s (as yet decided) Interim Emission Reduction Targets, ensuring that investments made today are aligned with a climate-safe future.

The Hepburn Shire is leading efforts to transition to zero-net emissions. Our community is home to Hepburn Z-NET a partnership bringing together community organisations, council and representatives to deliver our zero-net energy target for 2025 and zero-net emissions target by 2030.

Our residential emissions, visible in the graphic below, largely come from stationary energy and transport.

Hepburn Z-NET is targeting these areas to have the biggest impact, delivering a pipeline of projects that will help households cut their carbon footprint, electricity bills and increase wellbeing. While many of these programs are delayed until the social distancing laws are relaxed, there are some actions you can safely take from home today:

  • Go solar and battery: The State Government solar subsidy is still open, and the battery rebate – worth up to $4,838 for eligible households – is now available in most postcode areas in the Hepburn Shire. To find out more, you can sign up for the Hepburn Solar Bulk Buy’s first virtual information meeting: mash.org.au/hepburn-solar/online-info-meetings
  • Consider an electric vehicle: The Hepburn EV Bulk Buy is now open to expressions of interest for those thinking of purchasing an EV. The vehicles available in the bulk-buy are second-hand Nissan Leafs, that range in price from $17,000 to $45,000. You can complete the EOI form on the Hepburn Wind website here and we will notify you when the program begins (please note that the program launch date will be dependent on COVID-19 impacts)
  • Reserve your place for a free energy audit: The Z-NET Home Energy Assessments and Energy Savvy Upgrades Program led by Transition Creswick will be taking expressions of interest in the coming month in order to begin free energy audits and subsidised retrofitting support. Please register your interest by filling out this survey or sending an email to assessor@hepburnznet.org.au. You will be notified when this program begins over the coming months (please note that the program launch date will be dependent on COVID-19 impacts).