Adelaide sets the pace for carbon neutral cities

On 23 August we’ll be exploring the Carbon Neutral Adelaide initiative with a number of South Australia’s sustainability leaders – including Adelaide City Council’s Lord Mayor Martin Haese and Senior Sustainability Manager, Marnie Hope.

We spoke with Marnie to get an insight into the Council’s role in this innovative city-wide push for carbon neutrality.

Tell us a bit about the vision behind the Carbon Neutral Adelaide initiative, what it includes, and what it means for the city.

Cities are a major driver of the global economy and central to our way of life but they are also major contributors to the problem of global carbon emissions. For this reason, Adelaide City Council and the Government of South Australia, have committed to make Adelaide one of the world's first carbon neutral cities. Through the Compact of Mayors and the Compact of States and Regions, we have both signed international agreements to rapidly reduce carbon emissions to limit the impacts of climate change. 

Since 2007, the City of Adelaide community has decoupled its economy and carbon emissions. We have reduced operational carbon emissions by 20% and grown our economy by 28% through a steady commitment and focus upon energy efficient green buildings, renewable energy, waste reduction and recycling and major investments to enhance public transport network services. 

Great cities are built by inspired communities and Carbon Neutral Adelaide provides the common purpose for us to foster and embrace new ideas. Communities that lead with solutions to this global challenge, will generate significant environmental, social and economic benefits that will enrich our way of life, protect our environment and create exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses.  

How will you play a part in delivering a Carbon Neutral Adelaide?

Council's Carbon Neutral Strategy 2015-2025 establishes targets for achieving carbon neutrality by 2025 or earlier including that Adelaide City Council's own operations will have zero net emissions by 2020 and that we will establish the Carbon Neutral Adelaide partnership framework by 2016.

Since 2009, Council has invested 1% of rates revenue into the Climate Change Action Initiatives Fund (CCAIF), supporting important community focused projects such as the CitySwitch Green Office Program, Switched on Schools Summit and Sustainability Incentives Scheme. By 2020, we will have more than one million sqm of City floor space committed to the Carbon Neutral Adelaide partnership. Through partnerships, which are essential for us to achieve our goal, we increase our support for the community to reduce carbon emissions and lead with real action on climate change.

The business case for investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects is excellent. In our own operations, we have invested the CCAIF into key projects that have reduced our energy use by more than 15%, securing annual savings of more than $800,000 for Council and therefore our community.

What are the key milestones in implementing the Carbon Neutral Adelaide vision?

Council's Carbon Neutral Strategy 2015-2025 was endorsed in November 2015.

Council has recently endorsed the City of Adelaide Strategic Plan 2016-2020 to guide us to our vision of Adelaide is a welcoming and dynamic city full of rich and diverse experiences. With four key themes – Smart, Green, Liveable and Creative – 25% of our priority actions focus upon carbon reduction, climate change adaptation and broader sustainability initiatives including increasing green space and greenery in built-up areas by 100,000sqm by 2020.  

We have just completed an extensive community consultation for Carbon Neutral Adelaide that builds upon our understanding of opportunities and the recommendations of the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Foundation Report and will release of the Carbon Neutral Adelaide Action Plan with the Government of South Australia to outline the pathways and major initiatives that will be delivered to achieve our community aspiration for Adelaide to be one of the world's first carbon neutral cities.

Do you see this strategy being transferable to other Australian and global cities looking to deliver a similar carbon neutral strategy?

Adelaide's aspiration to be carbon neutral will make a valuable contribution to global understanding of how communities can go beyond international commitments made at COP21 in Paris in 2015 to rapidly reduce carbon emissions, consistent with the deep cuts that are being urgently recommended by scientific evidence.

It is clear that local government is playing a highly influential role in advancing the climate and sustainability agenda. Given that cities emit up to 70% of global emissions and contribute up to 80% of global Gross Domestic Product (Source: World Bank), local government is in the unique position of being a part of problem and a key part of the solution.

Leading cities are actively sharing ideas and strategies to accelerate carbon emissions reductions and to prepare for the impacts of climate change.  Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne’s membership of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance is a testament to the leadership of Australian cities in environmental sustainability. 

Through the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors, Australian cities are running the Cities Matter campaign to ensure state and federal governments recognise the valuable contribution that cities make to the national economy. Together we are encouraging the direction of funding to infrastructure to ensure cities thrive and are climate resilience. After all, Australian cities currently generate 68% of our nation’s GDP and it is widely predicted that 'knowledge sector' jobs will increasingly drive Australia’s future economy. With almost 80% of all tertiary and university students study in our capital cities it is of vital importance that cities drive innovation and leadership in areas where future employment opportunities will be greatest for graduates.

We’re excited by the prospect that within the next 10 years we will see a number of Carbon Neutral cities – and will work closely with industry to ensure the built environment sector can help achieve these milestones.

Join our speakers and industry professionals on 23 August to discuss the Carbon Neutral Adelaide vision. Hear what this means for Adelaide and learn how your city could follow Adelaide’s lead