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MAV [Peak Oil] Transition Community Working Group in Victoria

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has recently put out an 'alert' about peak oil and the existence of a group it has formed called the MAV Transition Community Working Group. It talks about the need for local governments to lead the adaptation to peak oil.

"To the Council CEO and Councillors (all Victorian Councils).
August 2009, LG ‘ALERT’ from the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) Transition Community Working Group

This ALERT is predicated on four factors:

1. The human race is facing its greatest challenge.

2. Individual communities need to collaborate to address the challenge and transition to a reduced-carbon, sustainable future. The time to act is now.

3. Local government needs to support communities in planning to address this challenge. Local government is likely to bear a significant proportion of the brunt of climate change, peak oil and other related impacts, and the sector is most effective when it collaborates to address major challenges.

4. The Transition Community approach is an empowering local response to crisis situations and offers the hope of achieving an improved local economy and improved social cohesion."

Editor: It will be difficult for local governments to lead people in a polity where all the power is being taken from local communities and they are being plugged into state and national power systems which have been commercialised and which have no obligation to their 'customers' except to submit to some vague 'competition' in prices. The cost of land and resources makes it very difficult for people to act locally as well because corporate style business is the only kind that can survive with those kinds of costs. For this reason we see our corporatised government helping big business to take over farmland. And housing developers are taking over suburban land with high density. This will prevent people from making the best of backyards to produce food and other needs locally. And the supermarkets and transport companies have stakes in preserving the current energy intensive food production and distribution system. Citizens have few remaining rights and no way of reaching a monolithic style government block which is barely, if at all distinguisable from a commercial finance, property and infrastructure development company with State and National branches and outlets in local areas to market projects and population growth.

Still, we folk have to work around this commercial system that has supplanted our self-government. See also this article by Dr Ted Trainer: The Transition Towns Movement; its huge significance and a friendly criticism. He writes:


"It is not oil that sets your greatest insecurity; it is the global economy. lt doesn’t need your town. It will relocate your jobs where profits are greatest. It can flip into recession overnight and dump you and billions of others into unemployment and poverty. It will only deliver to you whatever benefits trickle down from the ventures which maximise corporate profits. It loots the Third World to stock your supermarket shelves. It has condemned much of your town to idleness, in the form of unemployment and wasted time and resources that could be being devoted to meeting urgent needs there. ln the coming time of scarcity it will not look after you. The supreme need is for us to build a radically new economy within our town, and then for us to run it to meet our needs."

More on the MAV Transition Community Working Group

The MAV Transition Community Working Group, comprised of interested Councillors and officers, was formed to assess the Transition Community framework, developed in the UK and now spreading rapidly around the world, and its relevance to Victorian local government and communities. The Working Group has now considered the matter and has determined to issue an ‘ALERT’ to Councils across Victoria. The ‘alert’ refers to the need for Councils and their communities to be aware that:

1. communities will face an unprecedented number of significant (global) challenges in the relatively short term and need to develop the necessary resilience to cope with these issues, which include:

a. water shortages/drought (increasing cost)

b. more expensive energy (including global demand for oil exceeding supply). CSIRO modelling has forecast petrol prices of up to $8 per litre by 2018. Also please see (attached) the recent comment from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a division of the OECD, which is warning that oil prices could reach $200 per barrel within the next 2-3 years.

c. more expensive food

d. the impacts of climate change

e. economic constraints in the wake of the global financial crisis

2. living in a carbon-reduced world will inevitably result in significant changes to the way communities live, including:

a. moving away from a dependency on oil

b. reducing greenhouse gas emissions

c. using resources more efficiently

d. a greater development of the local economy, including more local food, local energy generation, and self-sufficiency in many ways.

3. the good news is that the Transition Community framework provides a positive mechanism for communities to be able to become fully aware of the nature of the challenges to be addressed, and to work together to produce plans to achieve the desired transition to a better future at the local level. The common element of the many Transition Plans that have been produced to date around the world is that they focus on what can be done by acting locally. While much of the discussion around climate change and ‘peak’ oil can be quite depressing, the Transition Community approach offers the prospect that members of a community can connect and plan for a fundamental vision of a healthier, more resilient local community.

4. this focus on ‘local’ revitalisation represents a major opportunity for local government to assume a key role in supporting communities to plan for a transition to a more sustainable future. While individuals may feel powerless in relation to climate change and more expensive energy, communities can act collaboratively and creatively to generate a real sense of hope and commitment.

5. The Kinsale (UK) Energy Decent Action Plan (access via Google) is a good example of a community plan that describes the proposed actions that will take place on an annual basis to enable the Kinsale community to transition from the ‘status quo’ to a reduced-carbon, more sustainable future. The plan includes modules for food, energy, transport, recreation, health, employment and other relevant areas.

6. The Maribyrnong Council has taken a lead position in planning for a reduced carbon future by developing a Peak Oil Policy and Action Plan, as well as Australia’s first local government Peak Oil Contingency Plan. This Plan uses various scenarios to assess the likely impacts on Council operations, and the next step is to assess the community impacts. The Maribyrnong initiative is attracting national and international attention.

Darebin Council has taken a different approach and integrated Peak Oil related issues together with Climate Change adaptation to develop a Climate Change and Peak Oil Adaptation plan which is currently out for community consultation. There are large confluences between the two issues identified in this plan.

7. The MAV Future of Local Government Program has identified the role of local government as being to facilitate the development of strong and successful communities. This is entirely consistent with the need for Councils to be pro-active in these challenging times and support their communities to address the global imperatives. The MAV also convened a Peak Oil Conference in 2007, which highlighted the fact that the demand for oil will exceed supply in the near future.

8. There are now over 500 community plans in place across Victoria. These ‘bottom up’ community planning processes provide an excellent platform to integrate with the Transition Community planning framework. Both planning processes are very similar and it makes sense to link them together rather than operate discrete processes simultaneously. They both aim to improve community sustainability.

Next Steps

All Victorian Councils need to ask themselves a number of questions in relation to the challenges referred to above:

a. Are you aware of the implications of climate change and peak oil for your Council?

b. Does your 4 year Council Plan adequately address the challenges of climate change, peak oil and more expensive resources/goods? There is little doubt that the world will be a different place by 2013 and that those Councils and communities that have planned for that future will be significantly advantaged.

c. Does your Council’s risk management plan/process take account of these issues?

d. Are your communities doing anything to plan and prepare for a carbon- reduced future?

The MAV Working Group is proposing:

e. that each Council nominates a ‘champion’ Councillor and a champion’ officer who can be ongoing contact points in relation to these matters. These nominations are sought before the end of September 2009, by emailing jhennessy@mav.asn.au

f. Councils work together to agree on a sector-wide approach in support of Transition Communities, and to link existing community planning processes to Transition planning processes.

g. Training and awareness sessions be made available to Council representatives in the near future.

h. Councils act to positively support, via advice and knowledge-sharing, communities that wish to embark on a Transition Community initiative (eg. prepare an Energy Descent Action Plan).

In conclusion, it is worthwhile noting the words of the Maribyrnong Council: ‘whatever you can do to prepare for peak oil, you should do, because you will be glad that you did’.

If you have any queries in relation to the above, please email jhennessy@mav.asn.au

John Hennessy (on behalf of the Working Group)

Attachment

The IEA warns of shortages - "The next oil crisis is coming" 27/2/2009.

A shortage of oil could trigger another global recession around 2013 – says the IEA. By 2010 the price will reach new highs. The IEA in Paris is warning of a new, much more severe global economic crisis around 2013. The reason is that investments in oil from new projects are being cancelled by large oil companies. If demand starts increasing in 2010, the oil price could explode, fire up inflation and put global growth at risk.

"We are concerned, that oil companies are reducing their investment levels. When demand returns a supply shortage could appear. We are even predicting that this shortage could occur in 2013." said Nobuo Tanaka, head of the IEA in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

He is alarmed, because he has data that shows that the global oil supply capacity is declining and that oil reserves will likely be markedly reduced by 2013. The stronger oil demand will be in a recovery starting in 2010, especially in the US, China and India, the sooner the shortage will appear and strangle global growth.

According to the IEA, the oil price could then exceed the records achieved in the summer of 2008 and reach $200 per barrel. "We could be steering into a new crisis, which could be greater than the current crisis", said Mr. Tanaka

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