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August 24, 2021

Adelaide City Council’s $47k in carbon offset bill

The City of Adelaide spent $47,450 on carbon offset credits in the 2020-21 financial year, almost double what it spent over the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Main image: Jack French

The council spent $47,450 in the 2020-21 financial year on carbon offsets, removing roughly 47,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through a wind farm in India and protection and regeneration of rainforests in Queensland and Cambodia.

In 2016, our sister publication InDaily reported the council coughed up $25,809 in 2013-14 and 2014-15 to offset its carbon emissions.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor told CityMag that despite the almost doubled figure, council had “decreased” its greenhouse gas emissions in recent years, “with our levels dropping by 11 per cent between 2019/29 and 2019/20″.

“At that time (2016), the City of Adelaide did not have a comprehensive greenhouse gas account covering all of its corporate operations and the carbon offsets were only intended to cover increases in greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use,” she said.

The City of Adelaide’s $47,450 bill accounts for 26,000 carbon credits. The purchase was made “in preparation” for the Climate Active certification process, the Lord Mayor said.

“To achieve carbon neutral certification from Climate Active, 24,609 carbon credits were officially retired,” she said

“The additional 1,391 tonnes of carbon credits will be used as offsets for the next certification year.

“The offsets retired are equal to the City of Adelaide’s greenhouse gas emissions for the 2019/20 financial year for all of the City’s operations.”

A carbon credit is considered ‘retired’ once it has been claimed against an individual or organisation’s carbon footprint, so it cannot be claimed a second time.

The City of Adelaide’s business operations were certified carbon neutral by the Australian Government’s Climate Active process in February this year.

That is not the message we should be sending to, not only our ratepayers, but the community at large.
—Phil Martin

At that time, the Lord Mayor said in a press release the City of Adelaide’s carbon neutral achievement was due to “operational efficiencies” and “reduced costs” that “benefit our community and ratepayers.”

Operational efficiencies include a renewable electricity contract for all operations, improving buildings’ energy efficiency, installing solar arrays, and buying a “fully electric plug-in passenger vehicle”, the release says.

Councillor Phil Martin slammed the carbon-offset bill, saying it is the wrong way for the organisation to achieve carbon neutrality.

“You achieve carbon neutrality by doing the hard yards, not by buying credits issued by some rainforest in some remote corner of Australia or overseas,” he told CityMag.

“I recently drove past Town Hall and shared with my colleagues a photograph I took of a bank of diesel-powered utes parked out on the side of Town Hall, all emblazoned with the City of Adelaide logo.

“That is not the message we should be sending to, not only our ratepayers, but the community at large.”

The Lord Mayor said the assertion that council was “buying” its carbon neutral status is incorrect.

“The City of Adelaide has been working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through 10 major projects over many years, including switching to LED streetlights, solar power on buildings, zero-emissions transport and 100 per cent renewable electricity, as well as improving efficiencies and utilising smart technology in our buildings,” she said.

“Currently there are 12 hybrid vehicles and 35 electric vehicles, including sweepers, golf carts and light passenger vehicles, making up 23 per cent of the fleet of 201 vehicles.

“In addition, the City of Adelaide is involved in a trial of an electric waste collection truck as part of a joint-council waste contract which also includes the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, City of Charles Sturt, City of Marion and Cleanaway.”

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