Local councils can be a driving force in reducing Australia’s rising transport pollution, according to the Climate Council.
A new report, Waiting for the Green Light: Sustainable Transport Solutions for Local Government, recommends councils set strong transport emissions reduction targets and discourage car use in towns to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson agrees City of Ballarat should be a driving force to reduce transport pollution, but says change requires a policy and mindset shift at federal, state and local government level in partnership with community.
“If you look at the trends from Australian Bureau of Statistics, Ballarat and regional areas in general have higher car usage,” she said.
“We are less reliant on public transport and less reliant on active forms of transport like cycling and walking. It is sometimes a reflection on distances, but is sometimes a reflection on a lack of infrastructure investment.”
Transport pollution emissions increased by 3.4 per cent during 2017, according to the Climate Council.
The report released on Monday recommends local governments develop a climate and transport policy and action plan, gather data on local transport patterns and encourage sustainable transport use.
It also recommends councils provide for adequate cycle lanes and bicycle parking, provide fast-charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and consider disincentives for car use.
We need to get to a tipping point where the first option is public transport.Melanie Robertson, Committee for Ballarat
City of Ballarat director infrastructure and environment Terry Demeo said council had a sustainable transport strategy.
“(This) guides our cycling and pedestrians policy position with major initiatives such as the Ballarat Connections project linking all the cycling paths across the city in the CBD, the VicRoads $9 million plan is a product of council's initiative in this regard,” he said.
“As part of City of Ballarat’s major consultation effort around Smarter Parking, the necessity for sustainable transport and enhanced public transport has been highlighted, which will further inform council's advocacy and lobbying efforts.
“As part of the Smarter Parking initiative what has become apparent is that even with major additional parking infrastructure as the city grows there will be choices required in respect to car utilisation and or other transport options.”
City of Ballarat is not a member of the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, a coalition of local governments and communities that are making action pledges to tackle climate change.
It is envisaged City of Ballarat will consider a report in relation to the Cities Power Partnership in coming months, according to Mr Demeo.
Ms Robertson said improving public transport in Ballarat was a critical step to reducing reliance on cars.
“We need to get to a tipping point where the first option is public transport,” she said.
“We have seen shifts to public transport in travel to Melbourne with improvements to the train service. I don’t have to think about driving to Melbourne anymore. Provide the services and we will make fundamental shifts.”
Ms Robertson said she would also like to see the rapid adoption of autonomous vehicles and reduced car access in the Ballarat CBD.
Transport is Australia’s second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution after electricity, according to the Climate Council.
Other Australian cities have already taken action. Electric buses now form part of Adelaide’s public transport network and Melbourne’s tram network will soon be completely solar powered.
Moreland City Council has electric vehicles as part of the council fleet.