On Wednesday 17 July The West Australian published a column by Paul Murray questioning the City of Fremantle’s carbon neutral status.
On Friday 19 July Mayor Brad Pettitt sent a response to The West Australian which the newspaper hasn’t published.
The Mayor’s response is reproduced below in full.
Response to Paul Murray
Fremantle was the first local government in WA to go carbon neutral and the second in Australia behind the City of Sydney.
In fact when we did this in 2009 there wasn’t even a National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) or Carbon Neutral Program. These national programs weren’t launched by the Australian Government until 2010.
The City of Fremantle has however been careful to make sure that our claim to carbon neutral status is backed by good data and rigorous evaluation.
The technical sustainability staff at the City of Fremantle have kept close track of our emissions.
We have also used an independent and external consulting group from Sydney to double check the City’s carbon neutral status. They have verified that Fremantle is indeed a carbon neutral council.
So Paul Murray’s assertion that Fremantle “… has no substantiated right to make the carbon neutral claim, but it is clearly in breach of the very standards in which it is made” is terribly misplaced.
First, “carbon neutral” is not a term that is restricted to NCOS or any other accreditation. Self-assessment is perfectly valid and in fact very common. Furthermore, Fremantle has externally verified its carbon neutral status.
The City has never claimed to be NCOS certified, and has been very transparent about this. The council has chosen not to seek formal NCOS certification, which is a relatively expensive process, but rather to spend the equivalent amount of money on other carbon reduction and sustainability actions which provide more direct and practical outcomes.
And Fremantle is certainly not in breach of the NCOS standard as we have used this methodology as a basis for determining our emissions calculations – showing that our self-assessment is actually in line with best practice.
All that said, Council decided several months ago that ten years into our carbon neutral journey that a full NCOS verification report would be worthwhile to triple check we are doing this right. We are already well down the path of procuring this report.
It is important to note that carbon neutrality, while important, is ideally just a first step towards a reduction in carbon emissions through investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
These investments can pay for themselves very quickly and not only reduce local councils’ emissions but also their electricity bills. In Fremantle our electricity bills have been declining the past few years despite rising electricity costs – largely thanks to major investment in renewable energy [and energy efficiency].
Fremantle has invested around $2 million via its renewable energy reserve since 2011.
It doesn’t stop there. This financial year we will be investing around $500,000 on making our new library and civic building one of the most sustainable buildings of its size in Australia. A giant 240kW solar panel system combined with the energy efficient lighting, mixed mode air-conditioning and an efficient façade design means it is designed to make the City’s portion of the Kings Square Renewal project net carbon neutral.
These investments generally have a payback period of less than five years but ongoing benefits across decades.
The South Fremantle Solar Farm has also just passed its last major regulatory hurdle and when built by Epuron in early 2020 it will be the largest urban solar farm in Australia. The solar farm will provide a good opportunity for the City to source locally produced green power to assist our transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.
It was good to see Paul Murray’s interest in Fremantle’s climate credentials. Up until now Paul has largely been a sceptic of any action addressing climate change so it was refreshing to see that he now cares so deeply about carbon neutrality he was concerned Fremantle was not carbon neutral enough.
Paul, you can sleep easy knowing that Fremantle is getting it right and continues to lead the way in sustainable development.