In the fight against climate change and some of its irreversible impacts, at least one trailblazing community is proving the prospect of zero-net emissions by 2030 is not only desirable but entirely within reach.
Over 40 per cent of Hepburn Shire in central Victoria, is now powered by renewable energy, up from 36 per cent last year - well exceeding the state average of 29 per cent.
The remarkable achievement owes to a collaborative community-wide push, spearheaded by Hepburn Z-NET, to transition all sectors of its economy to zero-net energy by 2025 and zero-net emissions by 2030.
Taryn Lane, general manager of Hepburn Wind, said the recent result was primarily driven by a surge in demand for renewables at the residential level, as well as a diminished reliance on electricity, adding that both factors were likely coloured by the widespread devastation caused by the spate of natural disasters witnessed in Australia and overseas.
"Climate change and its impacts are now very front and centre for people not to just go for clean energy, but to build local resilience as well," Ms Lane said.
"Over the past year alone, we've seen another 3.3 megawatts of solar deployed on rooftops - so we're seeing lots of homes going solar.
"And last year we hit our 2029 target for rooftop solar and it was only 2021 - so the progress is really exciting."
In recent years, Hepburn Z-NET partnership programs have helped the Shire reduce its carbon footprint in all sectors, from transport and land-use to agricultural and waste.
In 2019, its community transition plan was launched with a view to shifting the Hepburn local economy to a low-carbon footing as quickly as possible.
At the time, the plan was guided by the ambition of the 2015 Paris climate agreement and the science underpinning the 2018 IPCC special report on global warming, both of which called on the global community to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.
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In the most recent IPCC report, however, climate scientists have warned the world is set to exceed 1.5 degrees warming, rendering some of the impacts of climate change inevitable and irreversible.
Given those stark conclusions, Ms Lane said it was important all communities - not just Hepburn Shire - force new policy measures by identifying a shared goal and vision for a transition to a "safer climate".
"It's one thing to reduce emissions; it's another thing to adapt to a changing climate, which we all will need to do," she said. "It needs to be an all-in approach, so that means everybody - schools, businesses, farmers, government - everybody working together and having those conversations now to prepare as early as possible."
"[The Hepburn Shire is] on track locally to prove that a local community can do very place-based and small-scale projects to meet that goal of 2030 net-zero emissions."
It's a view shared by Hepburn Shire mayor Tim Drylie, who said Hepburn Z-NET was a game-changer for community-led climate action.
"Hepburn Z-NET is leading the way when it comes to tackling climate change head-on," he said.
"Reaching 42 per cent renewables across the shire demonstrates the commitment of residents to build a more sustainable future."
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