Local sustainability in Melbourne (Australia)

Melbourne: a Sustainable Eco-City Future


ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

The City of Melbourne has undertaken progressive actions to improve the statutory and institutional ability of the local government to implement Melbourne’s Eco-City vision. It has included change at different levels of government particularly in relation to new financing mechanisms. Melbourne is a an illustrative case of a city pursuing a sustainable urban development strategy in the context of increasing population, higher standard of living, and economic growth while simultaneously ensuring sustainable urban development and urban living.

City Profile

Case Study #151 Melbourne

Population: 97,000

City size: 38km2

Membership: Melbourne joined ICLEI in 1998.

Appr. municipal budget per capita: US$ 3,700

GDP per capita: US$34,000

1 - Building an Eco-City, building a sustainable city

While Melbourne is enjoying a sustained period of strong economic growth and development, there are significant challenges for today and the future. These include the effects of climate change on natural resources and ecosystems; the need for adaptation strategies; increase in oil prices; significant population growth; greater demand on existing public infrastructure, as well as maintaining social cohesion. To meet these challenges the City of Melbourne developed the Future Melbourne Plan in 2007. This plan seeks to make Melbourne one of the world’s most sustainable cities by 2020. The program involves six goals: a city for people, a prosperous city, an Eco-City, a knowledge city, a creative city, a connected city.

2 - key factors in achieving an eco city

The Eco-City component of the Future Melbourne Plan aims to achieve zero net GHG emissions, proactively adapting to climate change impacts, promoting resource efficiency, increasing urban density with a more compact urban form, while at the same time protecting the water resources and other important natural resources.

To achieve this, legislative and statutory changes have been implemented, for example the Environmental Upgrade agreements were established. This allows the council, in partnership with Australian financial institutions, to lend money to commercial building owners for environmental retrofitting works. The council recovers these funds through a special statutory charge on the property, called an Environmental Upgrade Charge. This enables building owners to access needed upfront financial capital.

Another initiative is the Sustainable Melbourne Fund which now acts as the conduit on behalf of the City of Melbourne between participating banks and the 1200 Buildings Program participants. It will also assist council by developing, assessing and processing Environmental Upgrade finance applications on its behalf. The Sustainable Melbourne Fund was established in 2002 by the City of Melbourne with an initial investment of AUS$5 million (US$ 5.2 million). The purpose of the fund is to identify new financing opportunities to invest in local sustainability projects particularly in the areas of water, energy and waste, or business ventures and new technologies that deliver environmental and economic benefits.

Further, highlights of the Eco-City vision include the zero net emissions target for 2020. It will be achieved through improved energy efficiency and reduced energy consumption. An important aspect of this is the 1200 Buildings Program launched in 2010. The program is the catalyst for the environmental retrofitting of 1200 existing commercial buildings, or over two thirds of the municipality’s nonresidential building stock with a potential of 383,000 tons GHG emissions reduction per year.Another is the City Switch, which focuses on energy use and efficiency by office building tenants, and HiRES to improve the energy performance of apartment buildings and the Energy Map. The latter was developed with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and is used to inform distributed energy generation patterns in Melbourne.

In 2008 the sustainable water management strategy from 2002 was updated to include the ‘Total Watermark - City as a Catchment’ approac hand now incorporates updated sustainable water management targets. This strategy is now fully integrated within the Eco-City Plan. The municipality has responded and is on track to achieve the water targets set for 2020 which are:Workers reduced their water use by 48 per cent from 2000–08, residents used almost 40 per cent less, the City of Melbourne used 28 per cent less, and 4 per cent less pollution entered the waterways.

3 - Key aspects of the Eco-City vision

In 2007 the City of Melbourne initiated the process to develop the Future Melbourne Plan, which replaces the previous strategic City Plan 2010. The Future Melbourne Plan, of which, the Eco-City Program is part of, was developed after an extensive stakeholder and public consultation process. A Community Reference Group was invited by the City of Melbourne to cham­pion and guide the development of the Future Melbourne Plan and various project partners were invited to participate. The community’s vision is articulated in the completed plan and outlines the management, development and direc­tion of the City of Melbourne to 2020 and beyond.

Strategic partnerships were formed with higher governance tiers. These were important particularly as the City of Melbourne sought the assistance of the Victorian State Government to amend, through the parliamentary process, the City of Melbourne Act to allow for the integration of Environmental Upgrade agreements within planning and environmental law. This formed the statutory framework required for the overall Eco-City vision. The Green Building Council of Australia worked with the City of Melbourne to refine the council’s star rating scheme for the assessment of commercial buildings environmental performance. This ensures industry standards compliance and effective energy efficiency measures.

The National Australia Bank provided the City of Melbourne with its expertise in research leading to the development of an environmental upgrade finance mechanism which now underpins the 1200 Buildings program. Low Carbon Australia Ltd is working in collaboration with the City of Melbourne to develop a cost benefit analysis toolkit to assess energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings. Low Carbon Australia will also co-invest with the National Australia Bank to help facilitate its work on the 1200 Buildings Program.

4 - Key factors for success

Complementary strategic approaches, particularly with regard to the overall policy framework are essential to the proper implementation of the Eco-City vision.

Legislative support are key to ensure the uptake of the program and to entrench it within a supportive process, while based on sound economic foundations and a business model that offer incentives and support to get the program moving.

Political leadership is crucial in order to build the confidence throughout the city to embrace the approaches both for city employees and the citizens. In the case of Melbourne, the local government was influential in promoting the Eco-City vision and paved the way through a number of sustainability initiatives.

Partnership and strategic engagement is necessary to achieve the outcomes envisioned by the Eco-City vision, especially with the business sector, hierarchical levels of governance, and with local citizens.


This case study series is part of the Local Sustainability 2012 study that consists of this publication and a global overview report (ICLEI 2012, Local Sustainability 2012: Taking stock and moving forward, Global Report).

To download both parts, visit local2012.iclei.org

ICLEI Case Studies 138-151 summarized in this Global Report are available in full length at www.iclei.org/casestudies.

ICLEI Global Reports are research and analytical reports produced by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. By featuring different themes and characters the ICLEI Global Report series contributes to international discussions and policy developments.

ICLEI Global Reports are available at www.iclei.org/globalreports or in print for a cover fee.

To go further

The cases are presented in alphabetical order by world region and country, but are not representative for that region. Rather the presented cases are a cross-collection of sustainability themes across the world from cities that can be considered pioneering and especially advanced within their regional culture. Also the selection attempted to feature not the usual suspects. They illustrate the diversity of approaches to highlight global progress in local sustainability in cities and by local governments. Each presented case showcases progress towards urban sustainability. Firstly by providing an overview of the locally identified challenge and response. Secondly, highlighting significant achievements and results. Thirdly, detailing the process and actors involved in the preparation and implementation, and finally, key factors for the city’s success.

To dowload the complete study : local2012.iclei.org/local-sustainability-study/