Councils get ‘green’ star for emissions initiatives

Australia’s councils have been given a ‘green’ star for their efforts to reduce emissions, with a report finding that local governments are taking steps to cut emissions and many councils are making firm net zero commitments.

Petra Stock

The Net Zero Momentum Tracker report, produced by Climate Works Australia in Partnership with the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, looked at emissions reduction efforts by 57 of Australia’s largest councils.

It found 58 per cent of the local governments assessed, or 33 councils all up, have a target to bring operational emissions to zero by 2050, and almost 40 per cent aim to rid their community activities of all emissions by then.

“Our analysis found all of the local governments assessed are taking steps to reduce their operational or community emissions and many have net zero by 2050 targets or aspirations,” the report says.

Good news but race isn’t run yet

ClimateWorks Australia program manager of cities and policy Petra Stock says the findings come as good news.

“We looked at 57 of the largest local councils in Australia and what we found was that all councils that we assessed were working to reduce their emissions and a significant proportion were going much further,” she told Government News. “Some of them definitely got a green star.”

However, she added that many  still had work to do despite their good intentions.

“What we’re finding across the board is that increasingly organisations are making commitments to net zero, but they need to also come up with a comprehensive plan for how they are going to achieve that,” she said.

“In this report we found a significant proportion of councils have made those net zero commitments,  but the next step is to come up with a plan to get there.”

Crucial role for councils

The report says collectively, councils can deliver a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in they way they provide infrastructure, by incorporating sustainability criteria into planning approvals and by implementing programs to change behaviour.

Councils can also act as incubators by trialing policies, initiatives and emissions before they are adopted on a state or national level, the report says.

Ms Stock said Australia’s councils own around $380 billion worth of infrastructure and land, but are also the level of government closest to the community.

“So they play an influential role in strategic land use plans and also broader behaviour change programs,” she said.

Source: Net Zero Momentum Tracker

Top performers

The report says City of Sydney has been carbon neutral since 2011 and aims to cut 2006 emissions by 70 per cent by 2030, on the way to reaching net zero by 2050.

It aims to do this via environmental strategies including urban greening and factors low carbon criteria into planning approvals. Council has an external reference group to advise, as well as a citizen jury.

City of Adelaide aims to become the world’s first carbon neutral city and believes it can cut 2007 emissions by 65 per cent in five years. It’s published a five-year carbon-neutral plan which focuses on energy efficient buildings, zero emissions transport and 100 per cent renewable energy.

Wyndham City Council, meanwhile, located in one of Melboure’s designated growth areas, is aiming for net zero emissions from electricity by 2040. It has also installed charge points for electic vehicles and has launched a Green Money App which rewards residents for making sustainable choices with discounted movie tickets and coffee vouchers.

The report also looks at local government emissions initiatives around the world, including:

Australian initiatives

  • Cities Power Partnership
  • Take2 pledge initiative
  • Coalition of Community Energy
  • NSW Government Sustainability Advantage Program
  • Beyond Zero Emissions research organisation

Globale initiatives

  • The Global Covenant of Mayors
  • Local Governments for Sustainability
  • C40 Cities
  • The Carbon Neutral CitiesAlliance
  • The Climate Emergency Declaration movement


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