Zali Steggall starts a new grassroots campaign to turn climate change around

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In advance of introducing the draft legislation of a national climate-change bill for public consultation next week, the Independent parliamentary member for Warringah, Zali Steggall, quietly launched a grassroots campaign — Warringah’s Roadmap to Zero — in her electorate on Saturday.

“If we’re asking the government to come up with a plan on how we address climate change as a country, I think it’s important that as communities we come up with our own plan for how we can do our bit,” Steggall told pv magazine today.

Warringah’s Roadmap to Zero campaign is run from Steggall’s own website, and invites Warringah’s 64,000 households, it’s businesses, schools and organisations (147,000 or so residents) to sign up for information that will empower them to “contribute to reducing our emissions and waste in Warringah”.

Participants can then choose between areas of interest, including Energy, Transport, Food, Finance, Water and Waste, each of which offers a checklist for personal use by the participant. Each list is further divided into actions rated as “easy”, “moderate”, “difficult” and “hero”.

Those interested in reducing their energy footprint, for example, can choose to hang their washing on the line rather than using a tumble dryer (easy); buy renewable energy through the government’s GreenPower program (moderate); install solar panels (difficult); or invest in solar battery storage (hero). There are many other listed actions, and most then link to further information, such as enabling organisations, and apps that track progress.

Clicking on further information for “Install solar panels” leads to the Facebook page of Zero Emissions Sydney North, which runs “Solar My House” information events.

Warringah’s Roadmap to Zero links participants to information sources that help them achieve their pledges.

Facebook page of Zero Emissions Sydney North

“We’re trying to make it achievable for everyone,” says Steggall. “A lot of people are informed, but people are at different levels in terms of knowing where you can find information and what you can do, and everyone has a different ability to make changes at a different pace… and that’s OK.”

Not shaming, but celebrating achievements

People who sign up to participate need do nothing more than absorb the information on offer, although Steggall says her office will be “asking people to share their experiences”, and collating the actions to be able to provide feedback on the changes Warringah has made.

Future measurable metrics might be a decrease in waste transported to landfill, or an increase in the penetration of rooftop solar in the area. 

Steggall says that the current baseline of installed rooftop solar in her Federal Electorate of Warringah (which includes suburbs such as Manly, Killarney Heights, Curl Curl, Mosman, Brookvale, Neutral Bay …) is 10% of freestanding homes and 5% of businesses. 

The campaign’s nudge to consider purchasing a more fuel-efficient, electric or hybrid vehicle “next time you buy a car” is gentle, given the range of incomes of Warringah residents, and is ranked as a “moderate” pledge; whereas replacing school/uni/work car transport completely with walking, cycling and public transport is recognised as “difficult” — a big change for most people.

Amplifying the will of the electorate

Steggall, who ousted incumbent parliamentary member and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott from his long-held Warringah seat at the May 2019 Federal election, by running mainly on a platform of action on climate change and the environment, says that these issues are more than ever at the forefront of her constituents’ concerns.

“I did a survey around the electorate,” in advance of launching Warringah’s Roadmap to Zero, she says, “and overwhelmingly, the biggest issues people wanted addressed were climate change, environment, waste, plastics and water management, so it’s really important that I deliver on that.”

The grassroots Warringah action campaign will likely also feed in to a mooted public campaign that will call for a conscience vote on her legislation, which is modelled on the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Act and lays out a roadmap for Australia to transition to a decarbonised economy.

On her Facebook page, Steggall says, “The key features to the legislation will be to provide Climate Change Risk Assessment for all sectors such as health, agriculture, energy and transport and a National Adaptation Programme, to ensure Australia has a plan to meet increasing challenges, clearly vitally important when we consider our current unprecedented fires and drought.”