Western Sydney Councils form renewables buying group, in bid to slash emissions

Ten western Sydney councils have joined forces to launch a new and broad-ranging strategy to cut local government emissions, including through the procurement of renewable energy and adoption of low-emissions transport technologies.

Coordinated by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), the Western Sydney Energy Program (WSEP) aims to reduce Western Sydney’s emissions by 200,000 tonnes of CO2e a year.

To do so it will focus on four key areas: renewable energy, transport infrastructure, supporting communities and implementing best practice in energy planning and design for buildings and precincts.

Councils participating in the program include Blacktown City, Blue Mountains City, Cumberland City, Fairfield City, Hawkesbury City, The Hills Shire, Lithgow City, Liverpool City and the City of Parramatta.

To kick off the Program, the council group will focus on the development of a renewable energy power purchase agreement, as well as a business support program and building design guidelines for councils.

Additional projects will be scoped as the WSEP continues to roll out, the councils said.

One of the 10 LGAs taking part in the initiative, the Blue Mountains City Council, said on Wednesday that the WSROC’s new energy program would bolster its existing commitments to taking definitive action on Climate Change.

“In September 2019 Blue Mountains City Council adopted the target of becoming carbon neutral by the end of 2025, as measured through the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) certification process,” said Ward 1 Councillor and WSROC junior vice president Don McGregor.

“To meet this target, we must measure our organisation’s carbon emissions, reduce emissions as far as feasible, and then purchase carbon offsets that equal our remaining emissions so our net carbon emissions to the atmosphere are zero.

“Our Carbon Abatement Action Plan and the Western Sydney Energy Program means we will continue to reach our targets in this vital area,” McGregor said.

The Greater Blue Mountains area was among the hardest hit by the New South Wales mega-fires that ravaged the state over the past summer, with experts warning the World Heritage-listed region’s native flora and fauna species may “never recover”.

“It seems clear the single most important thing we can do to stop climate change is reduce emissions, and as the third council in NSW to declare a climate emergency, it’s an issue we take very seriously,” said Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill.

The commitment from the new councils’ group coincides with the findings of a new report from Breakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration, showing that declarations of climate emergency by local governments has boosted emissions reduction ambition and action.

As One Step Off The Grid reported last week, nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s major local governments have made commitments to reach a zero emissions target by or before 2050 for their community emissions – that is those generated by residents, businesses and visitors.

Another 58 per cent of those councils have set targets to bring their own operational emissions to zero by 2050. Collectively, these 33 councils – four of which were already carbon neutral – cover around one-third of the Australian population.

Similarly, these local governments have led the nation on the declaration of “climate emergency,” starting in December 2016 with the City of Darebin in Melbourne, which has since been joined by another 86 local councils and two state governments.

The Breakthrough Survey, put together by Alia Armistead, David Spratt, Stefaan White and Harry Goodman, shows that governments’ declaration of a climate emergency serve as much more than just as call to arms, by driving concrete action and inspiring community support.

More than half of the respondents (63%) were found to have approved, drafted or started developing a climate action plan subsequent to their climate emergency declaration.

Another 57% of councils used the declaration to call on state governments – and in fewer cases federal governments – to themselves declare a climate emergency.

A separate group of 18 Sydney councils, in this case mostly Sydney based and united under the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils Inc, also joined forces to tender for renewable power.

That effort wound up with the SSROC inking a landmark agreement with Origin Energy and the Moree solar farm to deliver “significant” energy cost savings of up to 35 per cent.

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