One constant has been the use of targets to set objectives for emissions reductions in council greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies. At first glance this makes perfect sense, although it is seems to be far from a perfect process to develop targets for community-based emissions: targets are often set on based on imperfect information and may as much reflect political ambitions within council as external realities. In its Sustainability Action Plan, Central Goldfields Shire Council warns that “targets are representative mechanisms for measuring progress against agreed goals and have not been finalized in clear metrics and/or availability of appropriate data. This is an extraordinarily fraught area…”
The other effect of targets is that it makes us think about how they are to be achieved. Increasingly it seems to favour approaches that deliver technological solutions to climate change, such as promoting solar and energy efficiency. This is not necessarily a bad thing but councils need to be clear-eyed about what this means. One effect may be that it is difficult for councils (and their third parties, when used) to strongly push solar, for example, and develop a community-wide response in which people feel that they own the issue of climate change and develop environmental values that are expressed through their actions.
Local governments may be prepared to make that trade-off (or may argue that it isn’t a trade-off at all) in pursuit of set targets. What we do need to recognise is that in setting targets, we determine the kind of programs we end up delivering.