No one is more aware of bushfire risks than people who live in the Blue Mountains.
Our home, just outside Sydney, is surrounded by beautiful, World-Heritage listed forests - and due to climate change, each bushfire season now brings with it profound threats to our community.
Watching footage of the recent Tasmanian bushfires was a stark reminder of the danger we face.
The 2013 fires that tore through the Blue Mountains, destroying 210 homes, are still fresh in our memory. This season, which has seen hot, profoundly dry conditions throughout the state, could easily see a repeat of this catastrophic event.
These days, due to climate change, the bushfire season now starts earlier and continues for longer, with high risk conditions continuing well into Autumn. Fire service experts warn that we’re now potentially facing year-long high-risk conditions.
If we’re to learn a lesson from the Tasmanian wildfires, it’s that it is simply not enough for our communities to be “climate change resilient”, or “bushfire prepared”. We urgently need to address the root cause of the heightened fire threat - climate change.
But we’re yet to see meaningful action from all levels of government to reduce the climate impacts that put our community in the firing line. The solutions are obvious - we need to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing worsening climate change, by switching to clean energy and sustainable transport solutions.
As a councillor at Blue Mountains City Council, I know our community is doing its bit to tackle climate change. We recently joined the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, and have been working with neighbouring councils to develop a comprehensive regional climate strategy.
We’re helping our community make the switch to renewable power, and reducing our impact as a council through energy-smart projects such as installing energy-efficient street lights.
While local action of this sort is hugely important, more needs to be done to protect Australian communities from the escalating bushfire risk that threatens homes and livelihoods. We need more local government leaders to step up to the climate challenge, and policy-makers at all levels to commit to meaningful action to drive down Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The future of communities such as ours depend on it.
Brent Hoare is a resident of the Blue Mountains village of Hazelbrook and an Advanced Firefighter member of the Hazelbrook RFS