To get to a truly sustainable infrastructure, we're going to have to move toward not only net zero energy buildings, but also to net zero emissions from other activities across the spectrum, ranging from energy to transport to buildings. That's a tall order, but according to the folks behind the Australian think tank Beyond Zero Emissions, is also completely attainable, and one Australian municipality is taking up the challenge.
Byron Shire, located in New South Wales, wants to be Australia's first net zero emissions region, and aims to reduce the area's emissions from transport, energy, buildings, land use, and waste all the way down to zero over the next 10 years.
To get to net zero emissions for the region, the Byron Shire initiative, led by Mayor Simon Richardson, will use a master plan developed by Beyond Zero Emissions as its roadmap, which goes well beyond the net zero energy goals of many municipalities. While reducing energy emissions can go a long way toward a cleaner and greener society, and is a great place to start, energy itself only accounts for about half of emissions from buildings, so cutting emissions across a variety of industries is necessary to truly start to make a dent in the fossil fuel status quo.
The Byron Shire initiative is a great example of the people leading when the government isn't, and this local and regional approach to zero emissions might be a key factor in moving change up the ladder, so to speak, especially in countries such as Australia, where no clear national leadership has emerged on clean renewable energy issues. According to Stephen Bygrave, head of Beyond Zero Emissions, "All revolutions start from the bottom up, and what is required is a revolution. Politicians will follow what action happens in the communities."
The obvious place to start (and one of the lowest-hanging fruit) is, of course, energy, and although the region is already a solar-heavy one, one focus could be community renewable energy projects and increased rooftop solar, but the initiative will also look toward retrofitting existing buildings for energy efficiency and energy production, reducing waste, rethinking land use (agriculture, forestry, etc.), and integrating cleaner transport options — electric vehicles included — into the region's planning and development programs.
"This is the start of a great journey for Byron, one where we can truly begin to take steps to walk down the path to sustainability and be a beacon for the world for what we do as well as what we think. Byron is known all over the world both for its environment and its progressive thinking and it is for this reason that Beyond Zero Emissions has identified Byron as the best place in Australia to embrace this challenge." — Mayor Simon Richardson
Image Credit: Richard Gifford (CC BY 2.0)