A number of my most recent articles have been predominantly focused on the economic issues associated with climate change. These issues are obviously important, however in this article I wanted to discuss a unique partnership between the Adelaide City Council and the Government of South Australia – an Australian first between a Local and State Government in the Climate Change space, with the City of Adelaide on track to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2050.

In April last year the Adelaide City Council signed the Compact of Mayors, and the Government of South Australia signed the Compact of States and Regions. This is unique in an Australian context because it is the first time a Local and State Government in Australia have signed these two agreements. In an international context, The Adelaide City Council and Government of South Australia are among the first Government bodies in the world to sign these respective Compacts.

The Compact of Mayors was launched by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg. It establishes a common platform to capture the impact of cities’ collective actions using standardised emissions measurement and consistent public reporting. To date, more than 500 cities representing 6% of the world’s population have committed to the Compact of Mayors.

The Compact of States and Regions was announced at the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014 and provides the first single global account of greenhouse gas targets made by state and regional Governments. More than 40 Governments covering 18 countries have reported their climate commitments and data to the Compact of States and Regions to date.

In addition to signing The Compact of Mayors and The Compact of States and Regions, The City of Adelaide and the Government of South Australia published the ‘Carbon Neutral Adelaide: A Shared vision for the world’s carbon neutral city’ report in November last year. This report discusses a road map by which the City and State Governments will work collaboratively to facilitate Adelaide becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city.

The City of Adelaide and The State Government of South Australia have also formalised their joint aspiration to establish Adelaide as the world’s first carbon neutral city via a unique agreement under South Australia’s Climate Change Legislation (the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007). In a further sign of unity of purpose, The City of Adelaide and the Government of South Australia have both published parallel strategies – the ‘Carbon Neutral Strategy 2015-2025’ and ‘Climate Change Strategy 2015-2050’ respectively.

Already exemplifying a commitment to carbon neutral solutions, Adelaide City Council’s emissions fell by 20% between 2007 and 2013.

Already exemplifying a commitment to carbon neutral solutions, Adelaide City Council’s emissions fell by 20% between 2007 and 2013. The year 2007 is significant as South Australia enshrined its Climate Change legislation and published its first Climate Change Strategy. Over that time period both the economy and population in the City grew by approximately 30%.

Since 2007, $2.6 billion has been invested in extending the light rail (tram) network through the city and electrify the Adelaide Metro rail system. The metropolitan bus fleet in the City of Adelaide is solely powered by lower emission fuels including gas and bio-diesel, and Adelaide commenced its world first solar electric bus service in 2008. The number of cycling journeys in and throughout the Adelaide City Council area has doubled since 2003.

At a state level, South Australia’s renewable energy statistics are also impressive:

  • Electricity generation from renewable sources has grown from 1% in 2004 to 41% last year
  • South Australia has more than one-third of Australia’s installed wind power capacity
  • One in every four homes in South Australia has a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system
  • $6.6 billion has been invested in wind and solar PV across the state since 2003
  • The emissions from South Australia’s electricity supply has dropped by more than 30% in less than 10 years

According to the ‘Carbon Neutral Adelaide: A Shared vision for the world’s carbon neutral city’ report, The City of Adelaide’s framework for action to establish itself as the world’s first carbon neutral city is based on six tenets:

1. Build partnerships and encourage community action – partnerships will be developed with businesses, innovators and the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living to achieve the City of Adelaide’s carbon neutral goal

2. Investment in energy efficiency and renewables in the city – facilitating private sector investment for commercial building upgrades and incentivising business and household investment in solar PV, battery storage, energy efficiency products and electric vehicle recharging points will further demonstrate the City of Adelaide’s carbon neutral leadership

3. Transform the way we travel – the public transport system will be transitioned to low emission trains, trams and buses. This will reduce the carbon footprint of the vehicle fleet. In addition, development in the city will be concentrated around rapid public transport services

4. Reduce emissions from waste – encourage the incorporation of waste management systems that maximise recycling into building owners and developer’s daily operations

5. Investment in large scale renewables across the State – driving further investment in large scale renewables will further reduce the emissions intensity of South Australia’s electricity supply. Expressions of interest for the purchase of low carbon energy will be undertaken in State Government operations

6. Offset carbon emissions – carbon offsets could play a critical role in achieving carbon neutral status for the City of Adelaide. Actions that facilitate substantial and lasting emissions reductions will be prioritised to decrease the reliance on carbon offsets

Read the ‘Carbon Neutral Adelaide: A Shared vision for the world’s carbon neutral city’ report here

Sustainable cities are going to play a crucial role in the fight against climate change. As an Australian scientist and entrepreneur who travels extensively throughout Asia I see first hand the challenges and opportunities that climate change represents for Governments and industry. I believe Australasian cities and the rest of the world can learn so much from what the City of Adelaide is doing.

Both the City of Adelaide and the State of South Australia are undergoing significant restructure following recent downturns in the mining and automotive industries. As such, The City of Adelaide’s aspiration to be the world’s first carbon neutral city is an exciting development and this restructure marks an exciting turning point in Australia’s post mining boom economy, and for the world as a whole.

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