Victoria's first carbon neutral Council

Yarra City Council is the first Victorian Council to be a certified as carbon neutral.

We were first certified as carbon neutral under the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) in late November 2012. Since then, we have maintained our NCOS carbon neutral status.

Established by the Australian Government in 2010, the NCOS sets transparent requirements for calculating, auditing and offsetting the carbon footprint of an organisation so it can achieve 'carbon neutrality'.

We were the second Council in Australia, after the City of Sydney, to receive NCOS certification.

What does becoming carbon neutral mean?

Becoming carbon neutral required us to measure our emissions and balance them by investing in accredited practices that are recognised for reducing emissions by the same amount. Investing in carbon neutral projects (known as offsets) that reduce emissions by the same amount. Investing in carbon neutral projects recognises that climate change is a global issue and that emission reductions made elsewhere have the benefit to our planet as local projects. 

The NCOS program includes both national and international schemes and provides strict eligibility requirements. This ensures confidence in the voluntary carbon offset market from both a consumer and provider perspective.

Our NCOS accredited offset purchases have included investment in two wind farms in China and a wastewater treatment and biogas utilisation project in Thailand.

Our journey to become carbon neutral

The goal of becoming a carbon neutral organisation was first outlined by Council in our 2008 Yarra Environment Strategy.

Developed through extensive consultation with the community in 2007, the Yarra Environment Strategy set directions for introducing sustainable initiatives and reducing Council's own energy use and carbon emissions.

We prioritised actions to minimise our greenhouse emissions in the following order:

  • Measure all emissions and evaluate the effectiveness of previous reduction measures
  • Avoid using energy when possible and eliminate waste
  • Reduce what energy needs to be used through efficient technology and behaviour change
  • Green energy sources by switching to low or no emission sources
  • Sequester and offset all residual emissions that can’t be eliminated through avoiding, reducing or changing energy sources. 

Measuring our emissions 

Our Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions are determined by using nationally recognised calculation methods that used data from a variety of sources including utility bills, direct fuel purchases and contractor fuel use, waste, use of public transport, taxis, flights, hire cars/buses, paper use, water use and emissions from refrigerant gases found in air conditioning equipment.

In 2015/16, Council's emissions were 12,787 tCO2, coming from:

Emission source

Tonnes CO2-e

Electricity

4,553

Electricity- Street Lighting

2,934

Natural gas

1,939

Transport Fuels

860

Transport Fuels - Contractors

1,844

Stationary Fuel use - Contractors

0

Waste

39

Fugitive Emissions

202

Paper

112

Business Travel of Employees

44

Water

176

Asphalt

85

Total Emissions

12,787

For a full description of how Council determines our emissions boundary, see the NCOS 'Public Disclosure Summary' below.

Verifying our numbers

To meet the NCOS assessment requirements, Council employs an independent auditor from the Register of Greenhouse and Energy Auditors to check our methodology for calculating the annual carbon emissions. This independent audit is required every second year.

You can download our audit/assurance statement here

Next steps

As part of NCOS certification, we must present audits of our energy use for review and approval annually. 

It is important to note that our journey towards long-term sustainability does not end with the NCOS certification. 

Becoming carbon neutral through the purchase of offsets is just one of the ways we can reduce our energy footprint. 

We will continue to invest in infrastructure projects and programs such as retrofitting buildings to reduce our annual energy use in real terms.

To effectively provide the community with the expected services and facilities, we inevitably have to consume energy. 

The goal is to account for that energy through more efficient use, a greater reliance on renewable energy sources and investment in renewable energy projects via the purchase of offsets.