A new collaborative initiative will seek to make western Victoria the leader in emissions reduction in Australia.
The Grampians New Energy Taskforce, or GNeT, has committed to developing a Roadmap to Zero Emissions - this will encompass local governments, businesses, and industry and eventually create a detailed report for the state government on achievable ways forward.
GNeT's Stuart Benjamin said it was an Australian first, and would eventually guide the decarbonisation of Ballarat, the Central Highlands, the Wimmera, and the southern Mallee.
"We need to start getting some of the best and brightest minds together," he said.
"What are the moves now, in five years, and in 10 years, to take the whole sector to zero emissions?"
While renewable energy production has been a focus in the region for several years, the harder part will be converting other industries, including agriculture.
"(Farming) is a large emitter but it's one of the most important economic sectors in the Grampians," he said.
"It needs a multifaceted approach, and part of it will involve converting farming vehicles to electric, and using different methodologies, possibly carbon farming itself and producing cropping that's a carbon sink itself.
"There's nobody that understands sustainability better than farmers, and they're one of the sectors that first identified climate change is real - they've been seeing it consistently for a generation."
In August, GNeT will host a forum to discuss ideas, featuring economist Professor Ross Garnaut as keynote speaker, and anyone is welcome to submit ideas through the Engage Victoria website.
Working with the Beyond Zero Emissions think tank, a provisional discussion report is planned to be delivered by August.
The Committee for Ballarat is working in partnership with GNeT to manage the development, with funding from the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning through the state government's New Energy Job Fund.
The Committee for Ballarat's new chief executive, Michael Poulton, said in a statement it was an exciting opportunity to localise zero-emissions plans.
"The work of the Taskforce is both unique and crucial in helping to shape the environment in which we live and work," he said.
Mr Benjamin said the collaboration would help get more done in the long term, especially with councils and industry leaders.
"There's a lot of talk in this sector, but we've had (the organisations) all come together as leaders of different sectors to work together," he said.
"We need interventions that create more jobs."
Story, The Courier.
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