How to transition to a zero carbon community in 10 years

Beyond Zero Emissions has released its Zero Carbon Communities Guide to empower communities and councils who want to see rapid local progress towards zero emissions. The guide provides a simple framework and key steps a community can take to achieve zero carbon status within 10 years.

Globally, local governments and communities are leading the way on climate action, aligning themselves with the latest climate science and international agreements. Many are already working towards 100 per cent renewable energy goals and zero emissions targets.

In Australia, state and territory governments are also taking action with the ACT, SA, NSW, VIC (with a legislated target) and now also QLD with net zero emissions targets by 2050.

However, there is a need to act faster to avoid the threat of severe climate change and costly adaptation measures. Setting an ambitious target is challenging but also inspires leadership and innovative solutions.

Zero Carbon Communities highlights community leaders who are working towards 100 per cent renewables and zero carbon emissions and to encourage high ambition communities to put BZE’s Zero Carbon Australia research into action.

Beyond Zero Emissions recommends a 10 year timeframe for transition because our Zero Carbon Australia research demonstrates that all communities could be net zero in10 years with the right effort and investment.

A 10 year timeframe is particularly valuable at a local scale because many people feel there is a gulf between the magnitude of the problem and the impact they can make. Acting within a local community to immediately reduce emissions can overcome this roadblock by aligning our capabilities for change with a meaningful, motivating response.

Benefits to Zero Carbon Communities also include significant growth in local jobs and investment, slashed electricity and gas bills for households, businesses and industry and a cleaner, healthier environment for local residents.

The Zero Carbon Community concept is ambitious, audacious and a worthy challenge. Despite the challenge of the task at hand – or perhaps because of it – there has been significant interest from communities around the country. In fact a growing number of communities are already achieving emissions reduction goals.

Byron Shire has one of the most ambitious emissions reduction goals in Australia. The Byron Shire Council and community are working in partnership to reduce emissions to zero in all sectors across the region within a timeframe of ten years.

Tiffany Harrison, Project Coordinator for the Zero Emissions Byron Project said; “When our project commenced limited work had been done in Australia addressing all areas of a community emissions profile. Zero Emissions Byron has pioneered the process as it progressed and has learnt many lessons which can be of aid to other communities now engaged in this work.”

Ideally communities will work to reduce emissions across all sectors, including energy, buildings, transport, land use industry and waste. A focus on one sector can be a good starting point.

Denmark and Walpole in WA, achieved a 14 per cent energy demand reduction as well as a community windfarm that, less than two years after commissioning, retired more than $600,000 in debt and paid its first dividend to shareholders.

BZE is currently supporting three Victorian communities Baw Baw, Nillumbik and Benalla to develop baseline emissions data, transition strategies and community engagement. Baseline data is a vital step towards achieving zero carbon, so you know where your starting point is, and can effectively measure progress.

We hope that this guide and the work of communities undertaking the challenge will inspire others to replicate and scale the approach to start their own journey towards zero carbon status. Our vision is an ever-growing network of communities across Australia, working together to achieve zero carbon status.

If you are interested in starting a Zero Carbon Community, or supporting this growing movement, get in touch to be part of this groundbreaking work. info@bze.org.au  See The Zero Carbon Communities Guide.

Imogen Jubb is national manager – Zero Carbon Communities, BZE

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