Yarra Council taking climate action

 Richmond Town Hall and a giant sunflower on top of it

Yarra's first Climate Emergency Plan

Yarra City Council was one of the first local governments in the world to declare a climate emergency, acknowledging both the scale and urgency of action needed to avoid the catastrophic impacts of global heating.
 
On 2 June 2020, Yarra Council endorsed its first Climate Emergency Plan that sets out our priorities and proposed actions for the next four years. 
 
We’re accelerating our own carbon emission reductions, supporting our community to act on the climate emergency, as well as to live with worsening climate impacts. We are also investing in created a climate adapted city — across our green spaces, streets, and hard assets and infrastructure. Since adopting the plan, we have many actions well underway. These include:
  • 'Getting off gas' by electrifying 10 Council-operated small buildings, with a further 10 buildings in progress. This includes upgrades to heating, hot water and cooktops from gas to electric, powered by 100% renewable energy.  All of our buildings' electricity needs are already met by renewable sources, and by 2030, they will be completely gas-free and fully electric.
  • Transitioning all Council’s fleet to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy by 2025
  • Speeding up the roll out of cycling infrastructure by trialling temporary bike lanes to inform permanent upgrades
  • Creating climate adapted green spaces by harvesting more stormwater to irrigate our parks
  • Introducing zero carbon standards for new commercial and multi-residential developments, working with other government partners to amend the planning scheme. This project led by Yarra and Moreland Councils has grown to include 29 Victorian councils working towards elevating ESD targets for new developments.
  • Removed the planning application fee for solar panels in heritage areas 
  • Engaged 1,300 people so far to take climate action through workshops and other programs, and many more engaged through online resources and recordings
  • Delivered a new climate skills program to support our community to be climate champions
  • Providing new climate action grants for community-led climate action and sustainability projects
  •  Helping residents and businesses to create all-electric homes and operations powered by renewable energy
  • Advocating for urgent climate action by other levels of government, including strong renewable energy and carbon emissions reduction targets, along with policy and economic measures that both enable recovery from the pandemic and drive emissions reductions.
  • Introduced a separate glass recycling service to recirculate valuable resources and reduce the carbon emissions associated with glass products. The introduction of the purple-lidded glass bin in Yarra results in an additional 1,530 tonnes of glass per year being sent for glass manufacturing. This saves 1,025 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.
     

Powered by 100% renewable energy

Since January 2019, all of our organisational electricity needs have been met by 100% renewable electricity, through rooftop solar generation across 38 council sites, and the remainder from wind power supplied by the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP). In an Australian first, MREP project brought together the purchasing power of 14 partners, including universities, cultural institutions, corporations and councils to drive the construction of a new wind farm near Ararat.
 
Council entered into a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) sourcing all of its electricity needs – for public lights, buildings, and electric charging — from renewable energy.

 

Our track record in cutting carbon emissions

Since 2008/09, the total emissions from Yarra Council as an organisation have reduced by more than 70% from 16,194 tCO2e in 2008/09 to approximately 5,100 tCO2e in 2019/20 (figure below).
 
Major reductions were achieved via street lighting, building upgrades through Energy Performance Contracts and sourcing 100% renewable electricity.
 
The main opportunities to further reduce our organisation’s emissions are transitioning away from natural gas (making up around 36 percent of emissions) and reducing emissions from transport (currently around 46 percent).

Council carbon emissions chart

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Getting off gas: Transitioning our operations away from using gas 

All of our electricity needs have been met by 100% renewable electricity since 2019, so to further reduce emissions from Council’s operations we are transitioning our buildings to be all-electric with no use of gas.

Read more here about our work to transition away from using gas

 

A certified carbon neutral organisation

Since 2012 Yarra Council has been operating as a certified carbon neutral organisation (under the National Carbon Offsetting Standard), meaning certified carbon offsets have been purchased to cover the residual emissions, bringing overall emissions to net zero.
 
Yarra Council was just the second local government in Australia to achieve this accreditation. 
 

Recognition of our sustainability leadership

Our sustainability profile and programs for the community have been recognised in a number of awards:

Our partners and alliances

We have strategic partnerships that assist with accelerating climate action. These include:
 
  • The Yarra Energy Foundation (YEF) is an independent, Council-funded organisation working towards a zero-carbon future in the City of Yarra.  Established by Yarra Council in 2010, YEF delivers energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to support households, schools, community groups and businesses to move towards a zero-carbon city.
  • Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA): a partnership between nine local governments in Melbourne’s north that delivers carbon reduction programs and advocacy across municipal borders.
  • Cities Power Partnership (CPP): Australia’s largest local government climate network, with participants sharing information and building connections in order to accelerate local action.
  • Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy: the world’s largest global alliance for city climate leadership, with over 10,000 participants promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat the climate emergency and move to a low emissions, resilient society.