Climate Summit for Local Government

Sept 6-8, 2023 | Melbourne

Net Zero is the Way to Go

Australian attitudes toward a net zero carbon future as an achievable goal are changing rapidly. Every state in the country has a net zero target, and key peak bodies (including the Business Council of Australia, the ACTU, National Farmers Federation) have signed a statement calling for deep emissions reductions in Australia. Towns, cities and councils all over Australia are setting net zero emissions goals for 10, 20 and 30 years from now, too. This is great news!

While many councils have established targets for emissions caused from council operations (e.g. electricity used in council buildings), it is increasingly important that councils expand their net zero goals to include a reduction of emissions in the community.  

But what exactly does this mean?

A council aiming for net zero community emissions is committed to doing everything they can to help residents and businesses in their council area to reduce carbon emissions. This can be through educational workshops on energy efficiency or solar panels, grants for composting, free LED light bulbs – you name it.

Why does a net zero community target matter? Because, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the key to reducing the devastating effects of climate change. And as the tier of government closest to the community, councils have a natural strength in identifying both the local assets and barriers to emissions reduction. By aligning with state government objectives and by talking to the community regularly, local governments can eliminate mountains of greenhouse gas emissions out of community energy, waste and transport cycles.

A number of our members are looking to establish their own net zero targets and we are supporting them all the way by providing resources, facilitating information sharing, and promoting their amazing efforts to our audience and to the media. If your Council is interested in setting net zero targets for reducing council or community emissions (or both!), please get in touch

The City of Port Phillip

One of our earliest members, the City of Port Phillip in Melbourne’s southeast, has set a goal of reducing community emissions to zero by the year 2050. In our April webinar, Lisa Paton, Coordinator of Sustainable Programs for the City of Port Phillip shared their journey in setting net zero community emissions goals, and had some great practical advice for councils looking to do the same.  

How they’re tackling community emissions

  • Increasing access to renewable energy – Port Phillip has dedicated solar programs for households, apartments and businesses. They have also partnered with the Australian Energy Foundation to provide residents with a free energy advice hotline. The targeted apartments project is particularly important to Port Phillip because over half of its residents live in ‘high density blocks’. 
  • Encouraging sustainable behaviour change – Council will conduct campaigns through social media, workshops and promotional materials to change knowledge, attitudes and practices that will encourage their community to reduce their emissions, waste and water use. 
  • Purchasing renewable energy for council operations – Through the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project, a collective renewable energy buying project, Port Phillip will reduce its total emissions by 87%. All of Council’s electricity – lights in the streets, barbecues in parks, libraries, childcare centres, town halls and more – is currently powered by renewable sources.

Tips for Councils

During our Net Zero webinar, Lisa offered some useful suggestions that focused on two areas – data collection and community engagement. Three of her tips are:

  1. Ensure that the decision makers understand the difference between your organisational emissions inventory and your community emissions profile. Also, advocate hard for access to community electricity, gas and water data.
  2. Be realistic about both reach within the community, and also their engagement with the issue. Is reducing emissions already on the radar for the silent majority? Because if not, behaviour change can be time consuming!
  3. How much is your State Government doing in the climate space? If not that much, your council may be forced to focus on advocacy to state and federal governments.

The City of Port Phillip is a fantastic resource and leader for local governments all around Australia taking communities to net zero. To see the full list of Port Phillip’s trailblazing initiatives lowering carbon in the community, click here. To see council’s full list of action pledges for the Cities Power Partnership, click here

Wondering who else might be on a similar carbon community journey?

Victoria’s Hepburn Shire is fast making a name for itself on climate and renewable energy with its clean energy plan. The plan incorporates an ambitious target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and 100% renewable energy by 2021 – a mere year from now. 

P.S. Confused about the different emission reduction targets out there? Check out our explainer for a bit of clarity