The right side of the "latte line" in Sydney, looking across Paddington towards Bondi Junction and the eastern suburbs.

The Planning Institute of Australia has released a new report on the role of planning in emissions reduction – identifying the actions the planning industry needs to take to decarbonise key industry sectors.

The report’s release responds to the climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen’s announcement of the federal government’s plans for sectoral decarbonisation.

The report considers the existing commitments in each state and territory, ideal planning policies, a high-level review of implementation, and the plausible pathway to net zero. In particular, the report analyses industry policy across energy, manufacturing, built environment, transport and agriculture, forestry and land use.

Where PIA stands:

The PIA is the national body representing planning and the planning profession, with the mission to inspire planners to elevate their role in shaping Australia’s future. Through the report, PIA hopes to show where and how the planning industry can enable early action to reduce carbon in every industry sector and meet the emission reduction target by 2050.

The report also forms part of PIA’s ongoing advocacy campaign on planning for climate change, including a challenge to all states and territories to implement 10 “asks” for more climate-conscious planning systems.

Key industries

The Fifth Estate has picked out some key industries and policies below, along with each government’s progress in its decarbonisation commitment. The urgency of the changes is classified as follows:

  • immediate: 1-2 years (2023-2024)
  • short: 3-5 years (2025-2027)
  • medium: 6-8 years (2028-2030)


With the energy sector dealing with electricity generation, PIA finds that the industry remains Australia’s largest source of carbon emissions at about 35 per cent of the national total. It believes decarbonising this sector is the most important prerequisite for achieving net zero.

In terms of commitment, Tasmania is well-ahead, being the first state to achieve 100 per cent renewable generation and is now committing to 200 per cent by 2040. This is followed by the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia committing to a 100 per cent renewable generation by 2030. Meanwhile, the Northern Territory is falling behind, committing to only 50 per cent renewable generation by 2030.

The current renewable energy commitment by states can be seen below:

JurisdictionRenewable Target / Estimated Share / Achievement 
NationalTarget of 82 per cent renewable generation by 2030.
NSWEstimated 68 per cent renewable generation by 2030 based on existing commitments.
VictoriaTarget of 65 per cent renewable generation by 2030 and 95 per cent by 2035.
QldTarget of 70 per cent renewable generation by 2032.
WAEstimated 56 per cent renewable generation by 2030 based on existing commitments.
SATarget of 100 per cent renewable generation by 2030.
  TasmaniaTarget of 200 per cent renewable generation by 2040. Was the first Australian jurisdiction to achieve 100 per cent renewable generation.
ACTAchieved 100 per cent renewable generation in 2020.
NTTarget of 50 per cent renewable consumption by 2030.

Ideal planning policies for each jurisdiction:

  1. immediate: prepare guidelines for environmental impact assessment of renewable energy projects –with large renewable energy projects often encountering complex issues such as conflict with rural land uses, amenity impacts and biodiversity loss, clear guidelines can streamline delivery and create a stable environment for investment in renewables
  2. immediate: identify land for renewable energy generation in strategic spatial plans – renewable energy has requirements for location, space and supporting infrastructure and having a strategic spatial plan and an integrated stakeholder approach can minimise conflict at subsequent stages
  3. medium: protect/reserve land for renewable energy generation and transmission – once strategic spatial plans have been signalled, land should be purchased or protected for renewable energy generation and transmission


So far, only South Australia has successfully implemented all three policies in its state. Victoria is following closely with policies one and two now well-developed and implementing policy three has commenced.

New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, have all well-developed policies for the first and second goals but are yet to make a start on reserving land for renewable energy. Meanwhile, Western Australia  is behind, only having commenced developing goals 1 and 2.


With manufacturing being an energy-intensive process, PIA suggests that the compounding process in manufacturing cannot continue to rely on resource exploitation if net zero is to be achieved and instead embrace circular economy (CE) principles.

NT, ACT, Tasmania, SA and WA have all implemented policies and strategies with commitment of varying time frames, with Tasmania and ACT’s policies due to achieve their CE goal by 2025. Policies passed in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have no specific timeframe or reduction goal, but the effects are expected to continue. Notably, a document by the Environmental Protection Authority in NSW wrote they expected an emissions reduction of about 13,000 kilotonnes by 2030.

The current commitment to circular economy policies by each state can be seen below:

JurisdictionCE policy
NationalNational Waste Policy; Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group
NSWCircular Economy Policy
VictoriaRecycling Victoria: A new economy
QldWaste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy
WAWaste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030
SASupporting the Circular Economy – SA Waste Strategy 2020-2025
TasmaniaDraft Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2022-2025
ACTDraft ACT Circular Economy Strategy 2022-2025
NTCircular Economy Strategy 2022-2027

Ideal planning policies:

  1. immediate: include objectives in planning legislation to consider the life cycle of building design – this would provide a legislative basis for regulatory standards to require green building technologies and construction techniques
  2. short term: prepare a national/state/territory strategy for infrastructure to support CE – implementation of CE requires space, location and supporting infrastructure and research, which will mutually benefit the state and the environment when implemented


So far, NSW is in the lead, having well-developed policies addressing both ideal planning policies. South Australia is close behind, having developed goal two and partially addressed goal one. While every other state has at least addressed goal two, the federal government policies are falling behind in helping address both goals, having only partially addressed CE strategies.

Built Environment

PIA found that Australia’s built environment industry is responsible for about one-fifth of Australia’s emissions and more than  50 per cent of electricity use. With the nation’s building stock expected to double between 2019 and 2050, the sector must achieve net zero in embodied and operational carbon emissions.

With carbon emissions occurring across the stages of the building’s life cycle, embodied carbon refers to emissions from the production of building materials, construction, and maintenance. Operational carbon, conversely, refers to the emissions from energy consumed during a building’s use.

An examination found that states are falling behind in addressing either or both forms of emissions while the federal government has started implementing policies addressing building carbon emissions. WA, SA, NT and Tasmania are states with no policies addressing either operational or embodied carbon emissions. NSW is the only state that has addressed both so far.

The current policies related to embodied and operational carbon by government jurisdiction can be found below:

  NationalNCC; YourHome; NatHERS and NABERS; Commercial Building Disclosure ProgramAdaptive Reuse: Preserving our Past, Building our Future
  NSW  BASIX; Apartment Design GuideSustainable Building SEPP; Accelerating Net Zero Buildings program
  VictoriaVictorian Planning Provisions, Better Apartment Design Standards  –
  QldBuilding in Queensland’s Climate Zones; Designing for Queensland’s Climate  –
  ACTEfficiency standards in Residential Tenancies Act 1997  –

Ideal planning policies:

Operational emissions:

  1. immediate: prepare/upgrade mandatory standards for building efficiency – baseline standards for both the national construction code and the state construction standard should be raised, which should then be assessed using updated climate data and tools must be developed to do this
  2. immediate: prohibit new gas connections – Development standards to be amended to prohibit gas connections to new homes, which will allow a greater proportion of households to meet their energy demands with renewables
  3. short term: prepare/upgrade sustainable design standards for new developments and infill and greenfield precincts – these standards should provide a minimum baseline sustainable design in new development, including solar access, cross-ventilation, landscaping, transport infrastructure, and car parking rates for transit accessibility.

Embodied emissions:

  • immediate: adopt a methodology for accounting for embodied carbon and require disclosure in development applications – the first step is to adopt consistent accounting and reporting methods, which will provide a signal and transition period before new standards are introduced. The low carbon living cooperative research centre (CRC) has already developed suitable accounting methods in 2021.
  • Short term: set standards for embodied carbon in new development: standards should be set according to goal four and progressively updated over time as the sector adjusts


In terms of operational emissions, only NSW has a well-developed policy one, Victoria and ACT have a well-developed policy two. And six out of eight states have partially developed policy three. Victoria and ACT are also leading the way, with one policy implemented and the other two under development.

Falling behind are Tasmania and NT, which have no signs of adopting the policies yet.

In terms of embodied emissions, there are no signs of adopting goals four and five into any state’s policies except for NSW, which already has a well-developed methodology for accounting for embodied carbon.

Further Information

The report also details the current modal shift of the transport sector and regional land use policies of the agriculture, forestry and land use sectors, which can be found in the Achieving Net Zero Report.

The PIA identifies the decade between 2020 to 2030 as the critical window of opportunity for climate policies to fulfil Paris targets. Substantial policy acceleration must occur through this decade for Australia to reach net zero by 2050.

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