New study assesses Local Governments’ emissions reduction goals

Rows of solar panels at Chargefox electric vehicle charging station in regional Victoria.

An assessment of how some of Australia’s largest local governments are cutting their emissions has found 58 percent have a target or aspiration to reach net zero by 2050 for their “operations emissions” – those activities or emissions sources owned or controlled by the local government.

Thirty seven percent of those local governments have a target or aspiration to reach net zero for “community emissions”, those produced within a local government area, other than those controlled by a council.

The study examined 57 of the largest local governments by population, including Brisbane City Council, the City of Gold Coast, Moreton Bay Regional Council and the City of Canterbury-Bankstown, who collectively represent more than half of Australia’s population.

“Local government action to address climate change can provide benefits both for councils and the communities they serve,” the study by ClimateWorks Australia and Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute reported.

“For example, it can reduce energy costs while providing a healthy, resilient and liveable environment.”

The study included case studies from the cities of Sydney and Adelaide, and Wyndham City Council. Wyndham is in one of Melbourne’s growth corridors and is projected to reach a population of more than 240,000 by 2036.  Wyndham City is trying to help its community reduce energy use and switch to renewables including by a community bulk buy program of discounted solar panels, battery storage and energy efficient appliances, and also grants and support for community energy projects.

The study said the next step is for local governments is to establish “net-zero-by-2050 targets, supported by interim emissions reduction targets and strategies that address both council operations and community emissions”.

The study authors are also tracking the emissions of the banking and property sectors, two other major sectors of the Australian economy.

There are other online tools which list emissions for municipalities, including this Australian one by Ironbark Sustainability and Beyond Zero Emissions. There’s also the Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s accounting and reporting standard for cities, developed by the World Resources Institute, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability).

Hydrogen energy

Meanwhile, the Australian Government’s Chief Scientist said this week that hydrogen had the potential to create a major emissions-free source of energy, and benefit regional Australia.

Dr Alan Finkel gave an update to the National Press Club on progress since the release of a 2018 COAG White Paper on this energy source.

“We have the potential to be one of the top three exporters of clean hydrogen, to create an exemplary safety track record, thousands of new Australian jobs, especially in regional areas, and billions of dollars in economic growth between now and 2050,” he said.

He said transitioning to an “electric planet” would be the biggest engineering project ever undertaken, but was necessary if society wanted to confront the consequences of climate change, and emissions reduction.

In September 2019 the South Australian Government launched its Hydrogen Action Plan that aims to make the state a world leader in producing, using and exporting hydrogen.

The ACT Government with industry are building what utility ActewAGL says will be Australia’s first publicly available hydrogen vehicle refueling station which will also be available to the 20 hydrogen cars that will be added to the government’s fleet in 2020.  

Image: Rows of solar panels at the Chargefox electric vehicle charging station at Barnawartha North, regional VIC, Dec. 2019.