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The Conservation Council ACT Region welcomes the report on Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in the ACT, produced by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment and tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 11th November.

“This report is an important step up from the ACT Government’s current climate change strategy which considers only direct scope 1 and 2 emissions,” said Helen Oakey, Conservation Council ACT Region Executive Director.

The ACT has made significant progress towards cutting direct greenhouse gas emissions from electricity (scope 2), but more is required. As well as phasing out the use of gas and reducing emissions from our transport and waste sectors (scope 1), we must reduce indirect and embodied (scope 3) emissions, such as those created in the production and transportation of goods that we consume, the construction industry and the food we import. The ecological and carbon footprints of the ACT are massive; our consumption requires an area nine times the size of the ACT to sustain it.

Whilst the Government must lead by reducing scope 3 emissions from its own operations, their initiatives and learnings in sustainable procurement could be shared with the Canberra business community. ACT businesses stand to benefit from understanding the impacts of their supply chains and adopting circular-economy principles of designing out waste and pollution and improving efficiency of resource use and recovery.

The ACT is a tiny player in global supply chains, but all businesses could benefit from higher standards of environmental sustainability. ACT businesses could further demonstrate leadership by advocating through their national industry associations for greater ambition in industry practices, such as the National Packaging Covenant and the right to repair appliances.

The community has a significant role to play in reducing Scope 3 emissions through reducing consumption and moving towards a service-based economy in which we buy less and value our time, wellbeing, community and environment more. Canberrans readily swapped single-use supermarket bags for BYO reusable shopping bags and are embracing the rise of “Buy Nothing” groups for swapping clothes and household items, indicating that a cultural shift away from consumerism is within reach.

Everyday choices make a difference, such as eating meat and processed foods less frequently, and buying responsibly farmed, seasonal, local produce rather than asparagus imported from Mexico or grapes from California. Measures such as more informative product labelling, better-funded community education about environmental impacts of food production, and food waste reduction and collection programs would assist Canberrans to eat more sustainably. Canberra lags behind leading European jurisdictions in this regard.

The size, design and construction of our houses has a long-term impact on the environment. The ACT must push for higher standards in the National Construction Code, which is currently under review, and in local urban planning and infrastructure that encourages more compact living with greater access to public transport and services – measures that enable Canberrans to live more sustainable and rewarding lives. The ACT Government needs to engage more deliberately with the construction sector to raise standards, encourage innovation and embed sustainability at the core of development and renovation projects of all scales.

Carbon offsetting should remain a last resort for the most difficult-to-eliminate emissions, and should be undertaken through high-quality nature-based carbon sequestration projects within the ACT’s borders where results can be monitored and verified.

The Conservation Council calls on the ACT Government to seriously consider the recommendations made by the Commissioner, particularly legislating targets and accounting practices for Scope 3 emissions reduction, and extending the focus beyond government operations to business and the community to encourage broader uptake.

We know that actions to reduce emissions lead to multiple co-benefits across society, the economy and the environment. Given the climate emergency, the failure of the Australian Government to commit to phasing out fossil fuels and methane emissions, and the ACT Government’s target of net-zero emissions by 2045 at the latest, now is the time for the ACT Government to act on scope 3 emissions reductions.

Find out more about the report and what it means for the ACT in conversation with the Commissioner, Dr Sophie Lewis.