Local councils have many levers that can either directly and indirectly influence emissions in their local communities. 100% Renewables (2021) identified nine levers that councils can utilise to influence reducing emissions within their communities either directly or indirectly.
Local Council Levers to Influence GHG Emissions in their Communities (100% Renewables, 2021).
Planning Controls - Councils are responsible for urban planning, land use and building approvals. They aim to ensure that required standards are met (e.g. BASIX, Section J of the BCA) and may be able to encourage and incentivise developers – for e.g. via floor space ratio (FSR) increases – to go beyond minimum requirements for efficiency, such as higher Green Star & NABERS ratings .
Lead by example - Local councils are significant emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, directly from their operations as well as indirectly through their supply chains. Many councils, like Newcastle have worked to reduce their energy use, energy cost and associated greenhouse gas emissions. In doing so, they generate bottom-line cost savings for ratepayers and provide visible demonstrations of the feasibility of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Prominent examples include LED streetlights and solar panels on local council offices and community facilities.
Financial/other incentives - Financial incentives are used to provide direct support to implement carbon-saving projects in local communities. Councils can provide financial assistance to implement actions in their communities. In some cases, Special Rate Levies have been approved and are used to fund sustainability initiatives. Incentives are also provided by councils to residents and businesses in the form of targeted programs aimed at waste management, energy efficiency, solar and the like. This could be aimed at business, apartments, or free-standing homes, and can take the form of information programs, workshops/engagement, audits, financial subsidies, grant applications or other assistance.
Advocacy / lobbying - Local council advocacy on climate includes councils adopting targets for emissions reduction and commitments to work with their communities to adapt to climate change, and councils recognising or declaring a climate emergency. This lifts the issue of climate change and the need for climate action to all levels from federal government to local communities and encourages action to respond. Councils, their communities and potential buyers of high-efficiency / low-emissions dwellings also lobby and advocate for change on issues that are more tangible locally, such as for changes to BASIX that will lift the sustainability performance of buildings in their local area.
Recognition/ awards - Recognition for action on sustainability is common to highlight achievement, recognise excellence and encourage others to act. Recognition provides businesses and individuals with motivation to act and directly reduce their emissions, and provides them with a point-of-difference to their competitors. Their actions and success, in turn, inspires others or motivates others to act to remain competitive.
Collaboration - Collaboration between local councils (such as through Joint Organisations) can accelerate and give scale to opportunities that can shorten the time to achieve outcomes and achieve better price and higher return for participants.
Strategy - The need to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be reflected in the key strategic plans for local councils, including Community Strategic Plans and Local Strategic Planning Statements. Having a mandate to act via the CSP, and developing strategies to respond directly to climate risks with targets and resourced action plans is critical for councils to reduce their own emissions and to work closely with their communities to help them reduce their impact.
Infrastructure / services - Local councils can provide a wide range of infrastructure and services that can directly influence carbon abatement and climate adaptation.
Education, training, workshops - Councils are well placed to help their communities become informed about and able to make sound decisions on efficiency and renewable energy opportunities through their business licensing and environmental assessments processes, information resources, workshops, training events, supplier expos, partnerships with local business, sustainable energy partners and State Government programs .