Australia’s local governments and their constituents could join forces to lead the nation’s carbon reduction effort, by shifting their communities to zero emissions in just 10 years, according to a new plan outlined by climate thinktank Beyond Zero Emissions.
The comprehensive Zero Carbon Communities Guide, launched by BZE at the EcoCity World Summit last week, details how local councils and community groups can work together – across all sectors, including energy, buildings, transport and industry – not only to slash emissions, but to create jobs, attract investment and drive down power costs.
The nine-step plan sets the 10-year course starting with community engagement, through to outlining project options and securing investment.
On the investment front, BZE says one of the main goals will be to develop viable self-funding models, in which savings from reduced electricity costs, for example, can be invested back into the community.
To achieve zero carbon, the task will be split roughly three ways: emissions reduction; local production; and utility-scale projects, which may be built somewhere else, but which the community might invest in.
“Our target (for zero carbon) is a little bit more ambitious than a lot of other targets, but the extensive Zero Carbon Australia Research demonstrates that it is both cost effective and technologically viable,” said BZE’s national manager of Zero Carbon Communities, Imogen Jubb.
Jubb said that while councils were already known to be leading both state and federal governments by setting their own ambitious emissions reduction targets, this wasn’t often a community-wide effort. According to 2016 a BZE survey, 82 per cent of local government targets were for council operations only, while just 18 per cent had community-wide targets.
“Ambition of the community is a really strong driver,” Jubb told One Step Off The Grid on Monday.
“Local communities are a really great place to workshop; to build community engagement and set the vision for what they want to achieve,” she said.
“And the benefits are really apparent: cutting carbon will save money, build investment and build jobs.”
Certainly, we have seen plenty of evidence of Council-led low-carbon decision making on One Step. Last year, for example, a group of 16 local government councils from southern and west Sydney called for expressions of interest to provide community energy services including home energy audits, product vetting and discounts.
And just last month, the Sunshine Coast Council in Queensland, became the first in Australia to complete its own large-scale solar plant: the 15MW Valdora solar farm, which is expected to save council more than $20 million in electricity costs.
But Jubb and BZE believe much more can be done, without too much more effort.
“Our vision is an ever-growing network of councils and organisations that are working together and knowledge sharing,” Jubb said.
To help bring vision to life, BZE is currently working with three Victorian communities – Baw Baw, Benalla and Nillumbik – to put their 10-year zero carbon plans in action.
“The world has seen remarkably fast economic transition in the past and can do so again,” the report says.
“We can create 100% renewable energy systems, make our buildings, transport, agricultural and industrial systems zero carbon, minimise waste – and do it remarkably quickly.”