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 35% 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 stationElectric vehicles are cheaper to run, quieter and more energy efficient compared to traditional fuel-combustion engines.

  • The NSW Government supports a transition to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and wants to help fast track the transport sector to net zero emissions by 2050.
  • The Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment is developing an incentive to help organisations take up BEVs in their passenger and light commercial fleets. It is expected that the incentive will be available to local councils,in addition to businesses and not-for-profit organisations to reduce the costs of buying new BEVs and base charging stations for their fleets.

Find out about BEVs and register your interest to receive more information on incentives.

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.

We are currently developing resources from the series and will publish here once available.

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.