Australian Government departments and agencies will be required to use renewable energy, occupy energy efficient buildings and use low-emission vehicles after the Federal Government released an ambitious strategy to achieve net zero in its operations by 2030.

On Tuesday, the Commonwealth Government released its Net Zero in Government Operations Strategy and Net Zero Government Operations Roadmap.

The documents outline targets which Commonwealth Government agencies and departments will need to meet along with actions that will occur in order for the Australian Government to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its own operations by 2030.

It applies to all ‘non-corporate’ Commonwealth entities but the target will exclude security and defence agencies.

Under the strategy and roadmap targets:

  • By 1 January 2028, 80 percent of Commonwealth electricity consumption will be renewable. This will be increased to 100 percent by 1 January 2030.
  • By 1 January 2025, Commonwealth Government leases for office space of 1,000 square meters or more that involve four or more years of operation will need to maintain at least 5-star NABERS energy ratings for building and tenancy. By 1 January 2026, all Commonwealth purchases or construction of office space with a value of $15 million or greater must maintain a NABERS energy rating of at least 6-stars and a Green Star rating of at least 4-stars.
  • By 1 July 2024, Commonwealth entities will need to prefer all-electric buildings when entering into lease contracts. By 1 July 2026, all Commonwealth purchases or construction of office space will be all-electric. By 1 January 2040, all Commonwealth entity owned or leased office space will be all-electric.
  • By 1 July 2025, new data centre facilities that are sourced outside the whole-of-Australian Government panel arrangement, whether owned or leased by the Commonwealth, are required to achieve and maintain a 5-star NABERS Energy for Data Centres rating or equivalent environmental rating such as a Power Usage Effectiveness of 1.4 or less.
  • By 1 July 2024, all office space with allocated parking will need to have an electric vehicle charging plan where possible. By 1 January 2025, office space with allocated parking should have facilities to support electric vehicle charging where possible if an entity has electric fleet vehicles on site.
  • By 1 July 2023, 1 July 2024 and 1 July 2025, 25 percent, 50 percent and 75 percent of new passenger vehicles in government fleets will need to be low-emission vehicles. There will be a preference for zero-emission vehicles.

The strategy and roadmap come after government entities began reporting emissions related data in their annual reports for 2022/23 onward as required under the Commonwealth Climate Disclosure Initiative.

Each government entity will use data from their 2022/23 reports to inform development of their own strategy for emissions reduction. These plans will be published by June 2024.

Beyond individual entities, emissions data will also be aggregated and reported on annually at a whole-of-Australian-Government level.

This will provide visibility with respect to the overall performance of the Australian Government in reducing emissions across its operations.

The strategy aims to support broader Australian Government targets of reducing carbon emissions across the economy by 43 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050.

Commonwealth Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said that the strategy would help to ensure that the Australian public service leads by example in delivering carbon emission reductions in its own operations.

“Reducing public sector emissions shows how serious the government is about combatting the impacts of climate change, while reaping the economic opportunities from affordable renewable energy.” Bowen said.

Sustainable building lobby groups welcomed the latest announcement.

Green Building Council of Australia chief executive officer Davina Rooney described the announcement as a ‘game changing approach to sustainability’.

Davina made particular mention of the use of tools such as Green Star, NABERS and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia ratings.

“It’s fabulous to see (that) our work in developing climate positive pathways for buildings has been adopted by the Australian Government,” Rooney said.

“It shows a clear commitment from our government to drive down emissions at scale and it sends a message to the market that net zero in operations is the new norm.”


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