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Living Lightly column

Vote as if life depends on it. Because it does.

By Lauren Salathiel

In Victoria, local council elections are just around the corner, with voting closing on October 23.

Voting for a candidate is about much more than the cliched “roads, rates, rubbish”, though.

With climate change the defining issue of this era, this local government election presents us with an opportunity to ensure our elected representatives support society-wide mobilisation  to meaningfully address the climate emergency.

The best way to achieve this is to begin those crucial conversations with candidates to get to know them, understand their positions on the climate emergency, provide them with the resources they might need to make a meaningful stand on climate change and make your position clear – after all, councillors are representatives of the community.

The Climate Emergency Declaration, which has already gained support by some local councils is a great place to start your discussion with your candidates.

Do local candidates support the declaration? And if they do, what do they think local councils might do to build a national climate emergency response?

How might local candidates grapple with the question of turning a “declaration” into “action” at a council level?

And what role do candidates see local environmental or climate groups playing in supporting council action on the climate emergency?

And how do candidates plan to bring diverse community voices – particularly the voices of those who will be most vulnerable in the face of climate change impacts – to the consultation and decision-making table?

If your candidates are not familiar with the declaration, you can help them learn more about it!

Explain the campaign, and the way that councils like Darebin City Council have spearheaded Australian council climate action.

And ask your candidates if they will sign a statement of support of the Climate Emergency Declaration.

For councillors who do not yet regard climate change as an emergency, there’s a host of great information online that you can provide to candidates to help them understand the severity of the situation and how local council action is relevant to the climate emergency.

The climate emergency, and increasing severity of heatwaves, bushfires, drought and the associated social and economic impacts of these on local communities make it imperative that this year be Victorian councils’ “climate election year”.

Use your voice to call for climate action at a council level and vote as if life depends on it. Because it does.

For more information and resource on building council support for the Climate Emergency Declaration, visit the Council and community Action in the Climate Emergency website at www.caceonline.org.