Evidence Based Climate Action Planning for Australian Local Government


At the end of the day, all the climate modelling, planning, profiles, business cases, targets, carbon budgets all mean nothing if there’s no real on-the-ground action. Council greenhouse inventories are important. As are community emissions profiles, reduction targets and joining international programs like the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy that tie into the Paris Agreement. But in themselves they do not reduce a single tonne of emissions. 

Nearly 100 councils in Australia have completed internationally-recognised community emissions profiles and dozens that have set targets in line with what the science demands. It’s now time to move onto how we can use that information and big data to determine the most effective pathways to action. 

We’re not talking about energy efficiency on council leisure centres or changing your street lights to LEDs. That's actually quite easy.

We’re talking about the projects that can make a significant difference and solutions that respond to the scale of the challenge at hand. Those councils who have developed science-derived emissions reduction targets are aware of the scale of the challenge. It is significant. But local government have always been at the forefront of meeting climate challenges. So let’s go.

What Sort of Actions?

Many of the actions that reduce carbon emissions are quite straight-forward and known to most in the industry. We need distributed generation of small-scale renewables. We need electrification of transport. We need to decarbonise the grid. We need solar everywhere. We need waste-to-energy. We need public transport. We need the types of massive-scale action outlined in exceptional documents such as Project Drawdown and the Carbon-Free City Handbook. The sort of actions that any local government climate practitioner would know is required. The sort of actions that most “lay people” would recognise is needed! 

And many of these actions could be implemented immediately if we had the political will and leadership across all levels of government and industries. It’s not technology that is the barrier, and not even money. We know what needs to be done “on the ground”. 

So Where Does Local Government Fit? 

What is the council role here? What is the actual intervention? And what works best? Across the globe, we are still learning about the optimal function of local government in driving change. But a critical element is to understand that councils need to collaborate and seek as much leverage as possible if we are to realize the scale of change required. We need to learn which interventions have the biggest impact on the municipalities adoption of actions.

Let’s take one action as an example – installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. This has the potential to reduce transport emissions in your community. Repeated across the land it could significantly reduce emissions from the transport sector. 

The challenge for councils is often determining the best intervention for them. Interventions are the activities that councils do to influence the rate of take up of a mitigation action. Only a few of these involve the actual provision of money. There are many interventions that a council could take to make this action, installing EV charging stations, come to fruition. A council could:

  • Fund, install and operate EV charging stations themselves 
  • Fund a third party to install and operate EV charging stations 
  • Facilitate third party solutions
  • Implement incentive schemes for operators and end-users
  • Facilitate bulk purchasing across regions
  • Advocate and educate

You could probably add another dozen or so interventions a council could undertake that would lead to the action required. It is the understanding of the cost and effectiveness of each of these possible interventions, and how they connect to the total opportunity presented by each carbon mitigation action, that we see as the future of evidence-based action planning.

Evidence-Based Intervention and Action Planning 

We’ve got a lot of data at Ironbark and a lot of expertise on local government and climate action. At our special council webinar on Monday 10th December 2018, we explained how councils can use this data to ensure you are selecting interventions that will give your municipality the best chance of meeting emissions reductions targets. 

We invited councils to come along, listen and ask questions. In the webinar we:

  • Looked at actions, how you can determine opportunities from municipal emissions profiles and connect them through to carbon budgets and reduction targets
  • Ran through how actions can be quantified in cost and impact through the framework of “interventions”
  • Looked specifically at the activities that councils can implement that influence or facilitate the adoption of carbon emissions mitigation
  • Reviewed current practices and knowledge on actions, and the importance of integrating monitoring and evaluation into activities so as to improve our collective understanding
  • Reviewed best practice nationally and internationally, looking at several tools that have been made available, and discuss strengths and weaknesses
  • Outlined the opportunities in collaborative actions, and show how emissions profiles can be aggregated to increase the scope of return for actions
  • Outlined specific initial outlays in resources

Who: Councils and regional organisations (alliances, ROCs, local government associations) only.
Webinar Recording: Contact Ironbark and we'll send it onto you