How local governments can help solve global problems

30 Oct 2023

Buildings account for half of Australia’s energy use and almost a quarter of its emissions. Improving energy efficiency and reducing energy demand is the cheapest way to drive down emissions and by implementing a range of energy efficiency measures in buildings, we could save $20 billion in energy bills for households and businesses, while avoiding 64 million tonnes of emissions by 2050. What role can local governments play in this transition and how are some already leading the way? We recently spoke to Katy Dean, our Senior Policy Adviser, to find out how local governments can help ensure that every building counts.

What is Every Building Counts?

Given the many benefits households, businesses and the economy could realise by making our buildings better, Green Building Council of Australia and Property Council of Australia decided to join forces and present a range of recommendations to government that will help us transition to a more sustainable built environment.

Every Building Counts For Local Governments is a report that details 19 recommendations across six themes. It is a companion to two other Every Building Counts reports tailored for the federal government and state and territory governments respectively. You can find the federal and local government reports at and the third is due to be released in the coming weeks.

What are you asking local governments to do?

The key recommendations within the report include:

  • Set a long-term vision for zero-carbon-ready buildings 
  • Support a nationally harmonised approach to phase out fossil fuel gas in buildings and appliances 
  • Accelerate the shift to high-performance, sustainable buildings with targeted incentives 
  • Commit to achieving zero-carbon-ready new and existing government-owned and leased buildings by 2030 
  • Drive the application of trusted, robust, credible rating systems such as Green Star 
  • Adopt a credible national framework for measuring embodied carbon 

Local governments have been demonstrating leadership on climate change action for many years. As a sector, they are one of the biggest users of Green Star and most councils have set targets to achieve zero carbon in their own operations. We are calling on councils to underpin these commitments with a clear plan for achieving zero-carbon-ready buildings for all new and existing council assets by 2030, as well as supporting and encouraging their communities to build and operate better buildings, too.

What other kinds of leadership do you want to see from local governments?

A report by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, Unlocking the Pathway, shows that 100% electrification with renewable energy is the lowest-cost, fastest emissions reduction pathway for Australia’s built environment.

This is going to take a huge, coordinated effort by government and industry. Councils are well-placed to drive electrification in their communities. This could include:

  • establishing their own programs to provide support for low-income households for energy-efficient, all-electric upgrades for their homes and appliances and incentives for local businesses and commercial buildings
  • being the trusted local partner to roll out state and/or federal initiatives to improve energy efficiency and drive electrification
  • developing policies that encourage electrification and the phase-out of fossil fuels in buildings
  • raising awareness about the benefits of electrification and providing information to home buyers and renovators to help them make informed decisions.

What are local governments already doing?

We are already seeing great leadership in electrification with 70+ councils across Australia creating a community of practice to support the delivery of local campaigns urging households and businesses to electrify everything. Participating councils provide various resources, such as Go Electric plans, online information and in-person events and some offer portable induction cooktops to borrow and trial.

Other great policies and programs demonstrating leadership include:

  • Retrofit Melbourne, developed in partnership with industry, is the City of Melbourne’s comprehensive plan to support commercial building retrofits
  • Zero Carbon Merri-bek is an ‘all in one’ service including financial support for low-income homeowners to install solar panels or improve the thermal comfort of their homes whilst lowering energy bills and reducing carbon emissions
  • Brisbane City Council offers a Green Buildings Incentive Policy that encourages the design of greener and more energy-efficient buildings across Brisbane through a financial payment equivalent to 50% per cent of infrastructure charges for council networks to buildings meeting specific criteria
  • In 2016, the Victorian Government passed legislation empowering all local governments in Victoria to offer businesses Environmental Upgrade Agreements that are fixed, long-term, low interest finance for businesses to fund commercial building upgrades
  • The City of Sydney is a founding partner of the Better Buildings Partnership, a collaboration of leading property owners and industry influencers providing green leadership and sustainable innovation for Sydney's commercial and public buildings.

The Green Building Council of Australia is proud to work with our local government members to support more productive, liveable, sustainable communities locally across Australia. We have a range of resources available to local governments looking to improve social, environmental and economic outcomes in their community, learn more here.

Read the report: Every Building Counts for local government