Local governments are helping Australia’s citizens and businesses cut their emissions to zero
As the level of government closest to the community, Australia’s 530 Councils can influence individuals, households and businesses to reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change
A report published by ClimateWorks (Net Zero Momentum Tracker: Local Government Sector Report) assesses emissions reduction commitments and activities of 57 Australian Councils, evaluating the extent to which they are on target to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Councils chosen are responsible for the largest local government areas by population, collectively covering 52 per cent of Australia’s population.
Australian Councils are responsible for urban planning, land use and building approvals, waste management and the provision of community infrastructure and services. That makes them among Australia’s most significant infrastructure owners and managers, with collective responsibility for over $380 billion in infrastructure and land. Councils can collectively deliver a substantial reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
By providing facilities and infrastructure; incorporating sustainability criteria into planning approvals; and implementing programs to change behaviour, Councils can encourage uptake of renewable energy, minimise the use of fossil fueled transportation, limit emissions from landfill and encourage greater energy efficiency in homes and businesses.
Local governments can reduce emissions in two ways: directly through their operations and indirectly through their influence on communities. Activities or sources owned or controlled by local governments – such as waste management and government owned buildings, facilities, infrastructure and vehicles – create ‘operational emissions’. All other emissions produced within a local government area from sources such as buildings, transport, waste, land use and industry result in ‘community emissions’.
Typically, community emissions represent almost all (99 per cent) of the emissions from a local government area. To be aligned to Net Zero by 2050, a local government should have a stated target to be Net Zero or carbon neutral by or before 2050 for both their operational and community emissions. This target needs be supported by interim emissions reduction targets and plans.
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. 58 per cent of the local governments assessed have a target to reach Net Zero operational emissions by 2050, or have made emissions reduction commitments compatible with this goal. These 33 Councils– four of which are already carbon neutral – represent 31 per cent of the Australian population.
Thirty-seven per cent of the local governments assessed – representing 21 per cent of the Australian population – have a target, aspiration or have made emissions reduction commitments aligned with Net Zero emissions by or before 2050 for all or the majority of their community emissions.
Of the capital city Councils, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are already carbon neutral for their operational emissions. Adelaide and Darwin city Councils, and the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly (which has local government authority for Canberra) each have a goal of becoming carbon neutral for their operations by 2020, 2030 and 2040 respectively. The City of Adelaide, City of Sydney and City of Melbourne also have a Net Zero by 2050 target or aspiration for their community emissions. Canberra’s community emissions are included in the ACT’s legislated target to be Net Zero by 2045.
Of the 57 governments assessed, Moreland City Council, Northern Beaches Council and the ACT have targets to reach Net Zero by or before 2050, with supporting interim emissions reduction targets that address both operational and community emissions.
The Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (EAGA) – a formal collaboration of Councils in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs are working together to facilitate regional adaptation to climate change. EAGA have recently embarked on a joint Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) program – the first of its kind in the Australian Local Government sector – EAGA Case Study
Local government action to address climate change can benefit both Councils and the communities they serve. For example, it can reduce energy costs while providing a healthy, resilient and liveable environment. In addition, by setting ambitious Net Zero emissions targets for operational and community emissions compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement, Australian local governments can build momentum for a nationwide transition to Net Zero emissions.
Download the full report here: ClimateWorks_NZMT_Local-Government-Report
To find out more about how we can partner with your Local Council to achieve your Net Zero ambitions, connect with our Net Zero experts today