Conferences, Proceedings of the 3rd National Local Government Research Forum

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Carbon offsetting by Queensland councils: motives and benefits
Heather Zeppel

Last modified: 2013-10-23

Abstract


Carbon offsetting provides one avenue for local councils to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions. This includes voluntary offsetting of council events or activities and purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions from transport, or landfill sites exceeding 25,000tCO2-e. Offsets are ‘An investment in a project that reduces greenhouse gas emissions or sequesters carbon from the atmosphere’ to compensate for emissions from other activities. Under the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011, local councils can also earn carbon credits through managing landfill emissions, or environmental plantings. This paper evaluates carbon offsetting actions and motives by Queensland councils from a 2012 quantitative and qualitative survey sent to all 73 councils. Some 32 councils completed the survey with a response rate of 51% (excluding Aboriginal shires). Seventeen Queensland councils stated that offsetting was neither necessary nor a priority due to their small size, or were unsure about offset guidelines. However, five city councils and two coastal regional councils were partially offsetting emissions mainly from vehicle fuel and electricity, or community events. Councils with a climate change strategy aiming to be carbon neutral (i.e. Cairns, Gold Coast, Redland, Sunshine Coast) were most likely to offset. The preferred offset action by councils was tree planting on council land, or in partnership with conservation groups or offset companies (Ecofund Queensland, Greening Australia, & Greenfleet). Four councils wanted to sell/earn carbon credits, or support local landholders. The key motives for carbon offsetting included: council concern about climate impacts, supporting conservation, being climate friendly, and financially supporting offset projects. Councils preferred carbon offset methods such as tree planting or renewable energy with tangible environmental and financial benefits.

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