Australia's regional towns need action on climate to survive

Australia's regional towns need action on climate to survive

As I stood on my farm in the once-thriving Central West region of New South Wales, looking at the cracked earth and sun-burnt grass, I thought about the land my family have tended to for the past 100 years.

In 2019, we saw the devastating impacts of extreme heat as a result of climate change, as we battled through the hottest and driest year on record.

We didn't think it could get much worse following 2018, when the drought hit and we had to work around the clock to watch over the flock.

If you thought we'd seen the end of the extreme weather, you'd be wrong.

Fast forward to early this year and a supercell storm - the most intense type of thunderstorm - brought damaging winds of 150km/h, 100mm of rain and hail that tore roofs off houses and brought power lines crashing down.

The storm was greater than a 100-year rainfall event and caused $1.2 million of damage for the council, and cost the community millions more.

It is clear that the impacts of a changing climate and extreme weather are all around us, and we need to be better prepared.

That's why today, as a farmer and the mayor of Parkes, I'm standing alongside 16 other mayors and councillors to call on the government in a joint statement to recognise the spiralling costs to communities from climate-fuelled extreme weather, and do more to protect communities from costly and disruptive climate shocks.

That means getting to net zero by 2040 at the latest, and having a clear plan in place to support regional communities like mine to get there.

As a shire, we are well on our way. Parkes Council was one of the first members of the Cities Power Partnership, we're rolling out solar and energy efficiency upgrades to council buildings, and all our new sewage and water treatment plants were built inline with top international sustainability ratings and fitted with solar panels.

And the community is right behind us. In 2010, we had a community buy-in of solar panels that saw the largest per capita uptake of rooftop solar on homes of any town in New South Wales at the time.

But, as important as local action is, what we really need is the federal government to step up.

They've seen the shift in community sentiment around climate change following the horrific bushfires last summer.

Now is the time for our federal leaders to invest in clean industries and protect communities from future climate and economic shocks.

Our regional communities depend on it.

Ken Keith is a farmer and mayor of Parkes Shire Council, New South Wales.

This story Australia's regional towns need action on climate to survive first appeared on The Canberra Times.