Spotlight: the “Carbon Neutral Adelaide” initiative in Australia

Spotlight: the “Carbon Neutral Adelaide” initiative in Australia

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Australia Country Manager Julian Atchison

Adelaide, South Australia

For a country renowned for its intransigence to climate action at a federal level, Australian state and local governments (councils) are taking very forward looking steps. In particular, councils in Australia’s biggest cities are leading the charge with huge reductions in their operational energy use, pushing clean transport initiatives, reducing waste, greening cityscapes and signing up to huge renewable energy power purchase agreements. All of Australia’s capital cities have climate action plans, highlights of which include:

  • Melbourne – council operations currently 100% renewable energy-powered, zero emissions by 2040
  • Sydney – net-zero by 2050, 50% renewable-powered by 2030
  • Canberra – whole city currently 100% renewable energy-powered, net-zero emissions by 2045
  • Adelaide – net-zero by 2025 (if successful, one of the first cities in the world to do so)
  • Brisbane – reducing emissions from council, household and businesses
  • Darwin – council operations net-zero by 2030, wider Darwin community by 2040
  • Perth – 30% reduction in citywide emissions by 2030
  • Hobart – 100% net-renewable electricity by 2040

Of interest here is the City of Adelaide’s 2025 net-zero target, also known as the “Carbon Neutral Adelaide” initiative. Just reaching net-zero emissions for council operations within the next four years is ambitious enough, but extending that target out to include all businesses & households in the Adelaide city area makes the initiative world-leading. And, encouraging individuals, households, businesses and corporate entities of all shapes and sizes along a parallel decarbonisation journey is a major undertaking.

To achieve this, the City of Adelaide has adopted a community-building, rewards-based approach. Partnership in the scheme is encouraged for businesses, events and large enterprises. Some of the initiative’s key partners are accredited to help others go through the process of becoming “Climate Active” – a nationally-recognized, best-practice, emissions reduction certification program in Australia. Advice and free consultation services are provided on a regular basis and these sessions are aimed at different levels, from household and small business actions to options for large corporate entities. This cycle of high-achievers guiding less-experienced partners through their decarbonisation journey’s first steps and then constantly encouraging the sharing and passing-on of knowledge is critical to building momentum.

The initiative’s major progress report was issued in 2019 (find this report below via the official website). Topline figures were impressive: population, use of city spaces and the City’s economy had all grown considerably, but emissions have dropped by 15% since 2007.

According to 2019-20 figures, “Carbon Neutral Adelaide” is funded by nearly AU$1 million. This is from a total City expenditure of about AU$200 million.


While most councils focus on reducing emissions intensity in their own operations, getting the wider community on board to undertake the same effort is difficult. Any council that makes the effort to set emissions reduction goals for the whole City area should be applauded. The City of Adelaide has opted for a community-building approach that encourages partners to join, share and teach newcomers best practice for decarbonisation. The 2019 progress report shows that even as the City grows considerably it is possible to decrease emissions community-wide. The next step is more funding and staff-power. If this success can come from 0.5% of the City’s total expenditure, just imagine what could be done with more resources.

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