Lord Mayor Councillor Anna Reynolds knows that capital cities have a unique role to play in tackling climate change. Her city of Hobart is the capital of Tasmania, an island state located 240 km (150 mi) south of the Australian mainland. Just over forty percent of the population resides in greater Hobart.
“The capital cities are Australia’s best-known cities, and they are the economic engines of the country. The capital cities have a strong identity and some of the most well-known mayors. All of that together means that the capital cities can open doors in Canberra and be a visible advocacy organization for cities,” said Lord Mayor Reynolds in an interview during her recent visit to the Seoul Mayors Forum on Climate Change.
Lord Mayor Reynolds serves as the Chair of the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors, which provides leadership for the effective coordination and representation of the capital cities of the Australian states and territories, especially in relationships with other spheres of government. The Council has taken up climate change as one of its main focuses, and Lord Mayor Reynolds brought a climate action statement to share at the Forum.
Council of Capital City Lord Mayors Statement: Stronger climate action in Australia is possible and essential
Lord Mayor Reynolds explained the motivation for developing this shared statement. “We have several new mayors who joined the Council in the last year, and we were keen to focus our efforts in a few shared areas of concern to capital cities. An important first step was to figure out what we could all agree on in terms of our position on climate change, because each member of the Council is different politically and in terms of their journey of climate action.”
“At the city level, everyone has been getting on with the job of implementing strategies to reduce emissions, but we can see that there’s not enough collaboration between the federal government and cities in Australia,” said Mayor Reynolds. That’s what makes the vertical relationship role of the Council particularly effective. “We think it’s important to remind the federal government that if they worked with cities they could deliver a lot stronger reductions in carbon emissions.”
Keeping a laser focus on climate change is key to the Council’s strategy. “The idea of focus is important. We’ve just found when we’re all busy running our own cities, if you try and focus on too many things, there’s no real ability to get momentum. It’s also important to offer support to other levels of government, to find out how can we help them to achieve their goals, and go in with a positive attitude. And that’s an attitude that the Council is keen to communicate.”
Lord Mayor Reynolds’ expects to scale up Hobart’s climate ambitions in a matter of months, if not weeks. “Next up we’re going to put out for public comment a plan for our more ambitious targets. The plan will outline a goal of being a zero carbon city by 2035. This is an ambitious vision because it’s a community-wide target, instead of just operations.”
She knows she has her work cut out for her. “My council is pretty divided – it’s half progressive, half conservative. If we’re able to get that through, then it will go out for public consultation, and our community is very concerned about climate change. We know they want us to have a beyond ‘business-as-usual’ target.”
Hobart’s climate action strategies will center on improvements in the transport sector. “We still have a high dependence on cars. Since the state government controls public transport, we’re mainly in an advocacy role, and right now we’re advocating for a much stronger per capita investment in transport. We are also advocating for a light rail line so that we can develop our city along that corridor, rather than pushing further into the suburbs, and creating bikeways and better pedestrian crossings so that Hobart residents can get more safely into and around the city,” she said.
Lord Mayor Reynolds knows she has a lot of choices of how to invest her own time and effort but recently supporting the climate activism of her residents has become an important priority. “I especially want to support young folks in their climate strike.” She also invests time in pushing “the ambition of the technical paid staff. I want them to get the message that we want them to put up proposals that go far beyond business-as-usual. We want them to challenge the Council and encourage them to be ambitious, even if we only get part of the way there.”