Carbon Neutrality and tackling climate change

The City of Fremantle was one of the first local governments in Australia to take action to reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy.

When the City first started taking serious action to reduce our carbon footprint in 2009 installing a large-scale solar PV system was complicated and expensive. 

At the time the council made a very rational decision to invest in carbon offsets in the short term to reduce our carbon footprint, while also putting money aside in a Renewable Energy Investment Reserve for future investment in renewable technology.

The carbon offsets the City has purchased have been used to support a range of projects, including the planting of approximately 150,000 trees on degraded farmland in the West Australian Wheatbelt.

This has removed 46,900 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions from the atmosphere over the past 11 years  – which is the equivalent of nearly 900 cars being taken off the road for this period of time.  

Fast forward to 2019 and solar PV and other renewable technology is much more advanced and much cheaper, which is why we are now transitioning from offsets to locally-sourced renewables (e.g. solar farm, new civic centre, solar PVs on other buildings).

Investment in Renewable Energy

Since 2011 almost $2 million has been deposited in the Renewable Energy Investment Reserve.

These funds have been used to install solar PVs on a number of City buildings and the geothermal system at the Leisure Centre. 

These funds will also contribute to the sustainability features on our new civic centre and library, which will be one of the most energy efficient buildings of its size in Australia. Our current admin building and library at Fremantle Oval is 41% powered by renewable electricity from roof top solar. The Town Hall is 59% powered by renewable electricity from roof top solar. The Meeting Place is 81% powered by renewable electricity from roof top solar.

Other direct emissions reduction measures by the City include the installation of LED street lights and using electric/hybrid fleet vehicles.

We also support other people to reduce emissions through measures like funding the CAT bus, providing EV charging points, promoting cycling through the Bike Plan, energy efficient buildings through the Sustainable Building Policy.

City of Fremantle power bills

At a time when state government electricity charges have gone through the roof (7 per cent in 2018-19), the City of Fremantle has actually reduced its power bills.

The City’s annual power bills have fallen from $1.65 million in 2016-17 to $1.35 million in 2018-19.

This represents a significant saving to ratepayers and is part of the reason why the City has been able to keep rate increases low for the past three years.

  Annual Electricity costs  Reduction on 2015/16
2015/16 $1,645,195 0%
2016/17 $1,632,064 0.8%
2017/18 $1,473,738 10%
2018/19 $1,345,027 18%


NCOS Accreditation 

When the City of Fremantle first purchased carbon offsets to become carbon neutral in 2009, the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) did not exist. It was introduced in 2010.

Our calculations to determine our emissions and the required offsets used the Carbon Neutral standard outlined by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives Oceania – Local Governments for Sustainability Oceania (ICLEI Oceania).

Perenia Carbon, a consulting group from Sydney, were appointed to verify the City’s carbon neutral status. They provided a verification report in late 2010 which covered the 2009/10 financial year.

It is not necessary to source a verification report every year. We did it the first time to make sure we were doing our calculations correctly, and we’ve been doing it the same way ever since.

However, from time to time it’s good to double check we’re still doing it correctly – which is why we’ve decided to get an NCOS verification report this year.

NCOS verification involves:

  • Generate a carbon account report outlining our accounting process and the offsets we have purchased (officer time – estimated 2 – 3 days additional work)
  • Get a full 3rd party audit of our carbon account and carbon offsets; (Cost estimate $8,000 – $20,000; Probably around $12k; plus officer time to interact with auditor)
  • Pay NCOS registration fees to the Department of Environment and Energy (Approximately $8,000)

This additional expense and time gets us a piece of paper and a new logo that we can use – but doesn’t provide any ‘environmental’ benefit. “Carbon Neutral” is not a term that is restricted to NCOS or any other organisation – therefore self-assessment is perfectly valid and very common. The City has never claimed to be NCOS certified, and has been very transparent about this. Formal NCOS certification would cost the City around $20,000 per year.

The council has instead chosen to spend the equivalent amount of money on other carbon reduction/sustainability actions which provide more direct and practical outcomes. For example, the $20,000 a year in certification fees pays for around 20,000 trees planted in the Wheatbelt. 

What we’re doing 

As it is, the City of Fremantle is investing $41 million (without any external funding) on our new civic centre and library, which will feature a 240kw solar PV system which will significantly boost our renewable energy generation.

We are also facilitating the development of the 4.9MW South Fremantle Solar Farm – the largest urban solar farm in Australia – which will be another source of locally generated renewable energy.

There’s more to sustainability than solar panels

While important, Zero Carbon is just one of the 10 principles outlined in our One Planet Strategy (One Planet Fremantle strategy). Other sustainability initiatives undertaken by the City include:

The introduction of FOGO

Upgraded recycling centre and Reuse Store

Recycling construction and demolition waste

Using recycled materials in road and footpath construction

Sustainable events policy

Sustainability criteria for procurement

Going Digital to reduce paper use

Waterwise ‘Gold’ council

Urban Forest Plan

Verge garden policy 

While some people may question why local government is acting on Climate Change, in reality local councils across Australia are taking a leading role in the issue. And many people in our community are grateful this is the case.

We must all do what we can to reduce our impact on our planet and the City of Fremantle is proud to be doing our part.