The net zero emissions journey for local councils

To achieve net zero emissions, councils need to plan and develop a strategy for their operational and community emissions.

Most councils generate an operational strategy to lead by example and gain knowledge and experience before generating their community strategy. A net zero emissions strategy will always be unique to place but does have universal steps that can be followed by all councils.

Universal steps to developing a net zero emissions strategy

  1. Engage your stakeholders: Develop your net zero strategy in consultation with relevant council staff, local businesses and the community.
  2. Get to know your emissions profile: An emissions profile (also known as an inventory) identifies and quantifies the key sources of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to your specific Council/LGA boundary.
  3. Identify emissions reductions pathways: Analyse the drivers of emissions within your emissions profile. Identify opportunities to make the biggest impact on emissions.
  4. Establish a target: Set interim and long-term science-based emissions reduction targets to drive action and momentum. Align your net zero emissions target with the NSW Government target of 50% reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.
  5. Develop and implement your emissions reduction strategy: A clearly defined strategy outlining what emission reduction actions will be undertaken, how to implement your emissions pathway and achieve your established target.
  6. Monitor and track your progress: Monitor and track the progress of your net zero emissions strategy against targets and milestones. Report on progress through your website or public-reporting platforms to share successes with others.

A guide has been produced for councils which elaborates on the above steps, provides an overview of key concepts and a process that can be followed to develop a community net zero strategy.

Download the guide: Net Zero Emissions Guidance for NSW Councils (PDF 1.6MB)

Taking action on emissions

Understanding your emissions profile is fundamental in generating a net zero strategy. An emissions profile or inventory details the sources of emissions for your council or Local Government Area (LGA) and helps to prioritise the actions that need to occur to achieve net zero emissions.

Find out the emissions profile of your Local Government Area

Common emission sources and our initiatives

Common emissions sources for local councils and their communities can include:

Contact us

Net Zero Emissions Implementation Team


Net Zero Emissions Guidance for NSW Councils

A high-level roadmap including an overview of key concepts and a step-by-step process to develop your own ongoing community net zero strategy.

Park Central, Sydney

A council’s building stock will account for anywhere from 20-40% of their total corporate greenhouse emissions.

  • Reducing emissions from buildings at the construction phase or enhancing the efficiency of buildings can save council, building owners and tenants money whilst also demonstrating clear intent for action and improvements over time.
  • Saving energy in buildings can be achieved through swapping to more efficient appliances, upgrading your lighting and understanding the peaks and troughs of occupation in buildings and adjusting features such as air conditioning and lighting to these patterns.
  • Making improvement to lighting, ventilation, temperature and acoustics in buildings can make them more comfortable and healthier for occupants.
  • Sustainability ratings can be used to measure and improve a building’s environmental performance.
  • Councils can achieve their sustainability targets by incorporating NABERS Commitment Agreements and other sustainability rating tools in their planning controls.

Find out more about sustainable buildings at NABERS or about training for councils.

Household food waste, recycling, compost binWhen food waste decays in landfill it creates methane – a greenhouse gas with emissions that are 25 times more harmful than CO2.

  • Diverting organics from landfill can reduce your community emissions.
  • Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) is a kerbside collection service that allows food to be added to the green lid garden waste bin so it can be recycled into high quality compost. 
  • Many councils in NSW already operate an organics collection service. View the NSW Organics Collection services map (PDF 576KB).

Find out more about the EPA’s Food Organics and Garden Organics or contact the team at

Solar farm solar panelsStationary energy is used to power buildings, factories and infrastructure. It is usually one of the largest emissions sources in an LGA’s emissions profile due to the use of non-renewables such as coal and gas powering council and community facilities.

  • Investing in renewable energy projects such as installing solar can reduce emissions from stationary energy and can help to lessen the amount spent on electricity over time.
  • Councils can enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that allows a council to purchase energy for their organisation and/or community from a renewable energy project over an agreed period of time.
    Find out more about installing solar in your council and PPAs.
  • Setting up a Revolving Energy Fund (REF) allows your council to establish a financing system for renewable energy projects in which  savings from projects are used to replenish the fund for the next round of investments.
  • To maximise savings made through any renewable energy-related investment, it is important to upgrade council and community infrastructure to the highest efficiency possible.

The NSW Electricity Strategy is the NSW Government’s plan for a reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity future that supports a growing economy. The strategy aligns closely with the NSW Government’s Net Zero Plan Stage 1:2020-2030.

Download the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap (PDF 7MB).

Electric car being charged at a charging station

Electric vehicles (EVs) are high performing vehicles that are cheaper to run, quieter on the road and reduce both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The NSW Government is delivering significant support to help kick-start the State’s pathway to EVs and fast track the transport sector to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
  • The NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy is our ambitious plan to make NSW the easiest place to buy and use an EV in Australia. Under the Strategy, stamp duty on EVs will be phased out, drivers will have access to a world-class road network of ultra-fast charging stations, and we’ll support motorists to make their next vehicle an EV through purchase rebates.
  • NSW will boost EV numbers by providing battery EV fleet incentives for local councils, businesses, not-for-profit organisations and hire companies. The incentives will be offered through a reverse auction process.
  • Guaranteed widespread EV charging across NSW is a priority. Significant co-funding under the Strategy means EV drivers can be confident of the network of chargers to drive their electric vehicles whenever and wherever they need to.
  • The Strategy is intended to increase EV sales to 52% by 2030–31 and nearly 100% by 2035.

Find out about EVs and register your interest to receive updates.

Resources to support action

The NSW Government has a range of initiatives and resources available to support local councils to reduce emissions while also contributing to the targets of the NSW Net Zero Plan Stage 1: 2020-2030.


Want to dive deeper on emissions sources and further action needed to achieve net zero emissions?The Net Zero Emissions Guide for NSW Councils contains information and resources which can support you on your net zero emissions journey.

Download the guide: Net Zero Emissions Guidance for NSW Councils (PDF 1.6MB)

  • The Department can provide direct support to assist councils to help reach sustainability goals through our membership-based initiative, Sustainability Advantage.
  • The Sustainable Councils and Communities initiative works with Joint Organisations and Regional Organisations of Councils to reduce emissions across councils and communities.

Contact us for more information:

In 2021, we partnered with Local Government NSW to deliver the Net Zero Emissions Insights Webinar Series. This three-part series provided information to local councils on reducing emissions within their council and communities.

Watch the webinar series


  1. Starting the Net Zero Emissions Journey
  2. Net Zero Emissions Pathways: built environment and stationary energy
  3. Net Zero Emissions Pathways: waste and transport

Starting the Net Zero Emissions Journey

This webinar is for councils who are developing, or planning, a net zero or emissions reductions strategy for their council or community. It covers why to pursue net zero emissions and provides steps to developing a strategy. It includes 3 presentations from councils who have all approached the net zero emissions journey differently.

Read the webinar summary (PDF 190KB)

Watch the recordings:

Net Zero Emissions Pathways: built environment and stationary energy

This webinar showcases technical pathways to reach net zero emissions for councils and their communities on stationary energy and the built environment. It features presentations from consultants, the Department and 2 councils who shared their successes and the challenges in reducing emissions from the built environment and from stationary energy.

Watch the recordings:

Net Zero Emissions Pathways: waste and transport

This webinar highlights pathways for councils to reduce emissions from waste and transport sectors. Information on reducing emissions from the diversion of organics from landfill is presented by the NSW Environment Protection Authority with DPIE presenting on the NSW Government’s electric vehicle initiatives. Also hear from sustainability consultant, Edge Environment on the National Food Waste Strategy, the Electric Vehicle Council, City of Canterbury-Bankstown Council and Northeast Waste.

Watch the recordings:

Climate change adaptation and mitigation work hand-in-hand to build resilience to climate change and support a thriving and sustainable NSW. Together they combine to help NSW reduce the impacts of climate change.

Local councils can prepare for climate change risks in their operations and communities by regularly updating their climate change risk assessment and developing an appropriate climate adaptation strategy (in addition to a net zero emissions strategy).

Information on identifying climate change risks and opportunities can be found on AdaptNSW.