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The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has applauded calls for the nation’s 537 councils to be given greater backing to protect local communities from the accelerating impacts of climate change.

A landmark Climate Council/City Powers Partnership report published this week found extreme weather events driven by global warming are taking a growing toll on community infrastructure owned by local government to the tune of nearly $500 billion.

The report said local governments play a leading role in responding to climate change; but they face financial and other barriers in responding to natural disasters, bolstering infrastructure resilience, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

ALGA president Linda Scott said the report findings add to the association’s evidence indicating that state and federal government assistance is falling short of what is required.

“Local governments have identified potential solutions that will protect people and community assets from new weather extremes –and get us closer to net-zero emissions,” Scott said.

“Councils are getting on with the job; many in rural and remote areas, however, need additional resources to implement targeted local projects that help communities transition to a low-carbon future.”

Ahead of the next federal election, ALGA is calling for the next Australian government to support communities in their climate change responses by investing in a Local Government Climate Change Partnership Fund of $200 million per annum over four years.

ALGA is also seeking a targeted disaster mitigation program at the level of $200 million per annum for four years to strengthen community resilience response and recovery costs.

 To support the financial sustainability of local governments – eroded by rate capping and unprecedented financial support extended to businesses and communities through the Covid-19 pandemic – ALGA is seeking a progressive increase in Financial Assistance Grants to one per cent of commonwealth taxation revenue.

The Climate Council report called on state and federal governments to take charge of coordinating climate impact responses and encouraging and resourcing collaboration across governments.

“It’s through partnerships and alliances that local government can better meet community expectations for reduced carbon emissions, greater energy efficiency, and improved heat adaptation strategies,” Scott said.

“Communities increasingly understand the need to prepare for a warmer world and the challenges of reducing our CO2 emissions. They want action.

“Local governments, properly resourced, can help them get ready – more importantly councils can ensure that no community is left behind in the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

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