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Climate Change

Local Government has a significant leadership role in assisting local communities to understand and adapt to the long term physical impacts of climate change, and to reduce carbon emissions. As the peak body representing councils in South Australia, the Local Government Association (LGA) has a key role to provide coordinated and relevant support to its members as they strive to achieve this.  

LGA Climate Change Action Plan 2014-2017

The LGA CLimate Change Action Plan 2014-2017 has been endorsed by the LGA Board and can be accessed here.

The LGA Climate Change Strategy 2008-2012 has been reviewed and finalised. A copy of the strategy with final comments on progress of initiatives can be accessed here.

Science to Solutions Program

The Science to Solutions (StoS) Program is a partnership between the Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA) and the State Government Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR), as part of a wider collaborative effort to develop strategies and tools to provide targeted support for improved climate change adaptation planning and decision-making across South Australia. 

This project, is part of a suite of climate adaptation activities being progressed in SA, that aims to better understand the challenges to adapting to a changing climate, so that the LGA SA and DEWNR can provide more targeted and supportive strategies, tools and resources to assist in adaptation planning processes.

Program Deliverables

Project Information Papers:

Stage Two of the Program commenced in August 2015. The LGA has entered into a partnership with the Resilient South group of Councils and the Yorke and Mid North Alliance to progress the deliverables for Stage Two.

The partnership agreements can be found below:

Resilient South Partnership

Yorke and Mid North Partnership

Deliverables and information papers will be added as they are finalised. In the interim, please contact Victoria Brown (Program Manager) via email:

Targeted Climate Adaptation Training and Guidance

The LGA are currently developing a series of function specific adaptation guidelines for:

  • Planning
  • Asset Management
  • Public Health
  • Economic Development
  • Financial Risk Management

The documents will be added to this page once they are finalised.

The guidelines will be used as a basis for function specific training for CEOs and General Managers (for the topics listed above). Course contents and supporting materials will be added to this page once the sessions are rolled out.

In addition, the LGA are developing a series of seven adaptation briefings for Elected Members, coverig the following topics:

  1. Asset Management
  2. Planning
  3. Economic Development
  4. Financial Risk Management
  5. Coastal Management
  6. Public Health
  7. Environment & Sustainability

The presentations from the briefings will be added to this page once the sessions are rolled out.

South Australian Integrated Climate Change Adaptation

Climate change adaptation action in South Australia (SA) developed over a number of years as governments, regions and private parties began to understand the implication of climate change. The statewide collaboration that currently exists evolved from the individual needs and perspectives of Local and Regional Councils, and is underpinned by documents including the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007, South Australia’s Greenhouse Strategy 2007-20, the South Australian Climate Adaptation Framework and the LGA Climate Change Action Plan 2013-2017.

The LGA has provided a pivitol role in the development of the SA methodology for integrated climate change adaptation, and has provided a range of tools and technical guides to facilitate the climate adaptation process. The Climate Adaptation Planning Guidelines (CAPG) provides a basis for Regional Adaptation Planning (RAP).

The CAPG can be found  here.

The State Government Policy Framework and Action Plan can be found below:

Prospering in a Changing Climate- Adaptation Policy Framework

State Government Climate Adaptation Action Plan

A case study developed by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) describing the SA approach can be found here.

The National Climate Adaptation Plan can be found here.

Sustainable Public Lighting

The LGA has been granted Research and Development Scheme funding to develop a business case for councils to operate, maintain and bulk procure street lighting infrastructure. This is likely to result in a significant reduction in costs, but will require legislative change to achieve this goal. The LGA are currently working on a strategy to affect the legislative changes that are required in coordination with developing the business case.

There has been a considerable amount of work undertaken in this area to date.

Both the Eastern Region Alliance of Councils and a group of Councils comprising Charles Sturt, Marion, Playford, Port Agusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla have undertaken significant analysis on the transition towards sustainable streetlighting. Wallmans Lawyers (for the LGA) have also prodcued a report on the delivery of public lighting services in SA.

The LGA recognises that councils are eager to make the changeover to LEDs and start benefiting from the large cost savings. However, the LGA has advised its members to delay any decision regarding an on-going association with SAPN until negotiations are completed and a business case has been developed.

At that time, the LGA will be in a position to advise councils on the most appropriate funding sources to cover the capital costs of making the changeover to LEDs, plus a range of other energy efficiency projects that councils are seeking to implement.

For further information on this topic, contact Public Lighting Project Manager, Andrew Legrand:

Sea Level Rise

The Sea Level Rise Problem Definition paper can be found here.

The LGA response to consultation on the Sea Level Rise Problem Definition Paper can be found here

Coastal Adaptation Decision Pathways Project

In 2011 the LGA was succesful in receiving funds from the then Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Eficiency under the Coastal Adaptation Decision Support Pathways program.

The LGA project aims to assist Councils assess and quantify the likely impacts from coastal inundation and erosion as a result of climate change on existing assets, and identify decision pathways for a range of adaptation options.

The deliverables from the project are detailed in the attached report and include:

  • a review of the likely climate changes and climate change impacts for the Australian coastal zone;
  • a review of the identified policy options for addressing coastal climate change impacts both in Australia and overseas (Appendix 1 and 2); and
  • an easy to use decision map to guide decision makers through the steps associated with determining the likely costs and liabilities associated with climate change impacts on existing coastal assets. The accompanying Excel ® financial simulation model was designed to be a generic pilot financial model for evaluating the costs associated with identified policy and investment options in the coastal zone.

The final Coastal Adaptation Decision Pathways Report can be found here.

Climate Change Sector Agreement with the South Australian Government

In the development of the LGA's strategic climate change approach, the LGA Secretariat has been acutely aware of the need to effectively collaborate with the SA Government and their climate change initiatives. This is to ensure that LGA initiatives complement those of the SA Government, and attracts its support and assistance.

The development of a Climate Change Sector Agreement under the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 has provided many climate change gains for both State and Local Government. The first sector agreement was signed in 2008 and was in operation until the end of 2013.

In October 2013, a second Climate Change Sector Agreement was developed based on the LGA Climate Change Strategy review and input from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. The updaed schedule in the agreement reflected current mandates and drivers for climate change action.

The current sector agreement can be found here

LGA Climate Adaptation Project (MLSCAP)

The LGA Climate Change Strategy includes the completion of a sector based Climate Change Risk Management Assessment and Adaptation Program. From the years 2008-2012, the LGA Mutual Liability Scheme (MLS) has successfully delivered the program to 63 of the 68 South Australian Councils.

The aim of this Climate Adaptation Project (CAP) is to capture relevant risk /opportunity related data based on predicted climate variables that will support Local Government in South Australia to develop individual/regional based climate adaptation modeling and adaptation plans. Further, the framework of the CAP has enabled the development of a sector profile relevant to climate change adaptation risks and opportunities that are recognised as a priority for South Australia.

The work was completed in early 2013. The final summary report for the program can be found here.

Climate Risks: Legal Liability

In mid 2011, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) commissioned law firm Baker & McKenzie to address the extent of liability risk Local Governments (nationally) may have in relation to the effects of identified climate change impacts/risks on property, assets (including trees) and infrastructure.

In September 2011 the report headed “Local Council Risk in the Face of Climate Change – Resolving Uncertainties” was released.

The report was the result of the ALGA considering the exposure to legal action in respect to an individual Council’s decisions relevant to anticipated climate change impacts. The report can be found here.

The Baker & McKenzie report identified three major areas of concern in relation to Local Government’s liability exposure – the first being:

  • failure to take appropriate action to consider future risk when making decisions – in particular planning decisions such as coastal development and predicted sea level rise, approving development in potential flood prone area, etc.

This underpinned the decision of the LGA Mutual Liability Scheme (LGAMLS) Board to undertake the Climate Change Adaptation Program (see seperate section on this project).

 The second risk is identified as:

  • costly and time consuming administrative and other appeals against Council - while this finding is more generally applicable to appeals against a Local Authority’s planning and development decisions (ERD Court), a costly example for South Australia is the potential for a Coronial Inquiry relating to death/deaths associated with falling tree branches, flood, fire damage: the result of random and extreme weather conditions.

Councils in South Australia have the financial resource and legal protection provided by the LGAMLS which is able to significantly reduce the cost and resources required to respond to various appeals including a Coronial Inquiry. When appropriate, the LGAMLS on behalf of the LGA, is able to represent, and act in, the interests of the whole sector in these processes, ensuring the best possible outcome for the Council and Local Government.

 The third risk is:

  • liability risk arising from the lack of a Council’s vision and relevant action to “future proof” vital infrastructure or service provision, based on predicted climate change impacts.

Local Government (SA) experiences, including the 2005 Wangary Bushfires, the falling tree branch on Greenhill Road resulting in the tragic fatality and the 2011 Mid North floods have already sharpened the LGAMLS’ focus on policy and guidelines for Extreme Weather Events, Tree Management, Emergency Management, Communication and Natural Disaster Resilience.

 The Baker & McKenzie report recommends that in response to those identified exposures, Local Governments should proceed with caution based on the following strategies:

a)  Councils need to expand their knowledge base when making decisions to ensure they are best informed to make well rounded decisions, without fear of being overly risk adverse;

b)  Councils should not rely solely on scientific expert data/information relating to climate change and instead increase stakeholder and public consultation when considering concerns/decisions relating to climate change; and

c)  on a “whole of Local Government” approach, Councils should advocate (via LGA) to respective State Governments for standard triggers to be included in State planning regulations (development, coastal planning, tree management, Disaster Fund).

Work continues with ALGA and other States and Territories to ensure that councils have an adequate amount of cover in relation to the effects of identified climate change impacts/risks on property, assets (including trees) and infrastructure. Outputs of these activities will be downloaded to the LGA website as they become available.

Quantifying the Cost of Climate Change on Assets

Australia’s 560 Local Government authorities are responsible for the management of depreciable assets valued at approximately $300 billion. Many of these assets (buildings, roads, footpaths, coastal retaining walls, water infrastructure, etc.) have a life span greater than 50 years and so will be affected by long-term shifts in climate.

How these changes in the climate will impact on existing Council assets and their management has not been well understood and existing financial and asset management tools have not effectively incorporated climate change scenarios into Council planning processes.

In 2011 the LGA embarked on a project aimed at developing tools that assisted Councils incorporate climate change impacts and calculate the likely flow-on effects into asset and financial management plans.  

The project delivered a research report and a financial modelling tool for integration into the existing Institute of Public Works and Engineering (IPWEA) NAMS.PLUS asset management framework for use by Local Government staff that can be accessed here.

For more information regarding the integration of this LGASA tool into the IPWEA NAMS.PLUS asset management framework please contact IPWEA via

Solar Councils Innovation Fund

The Solar Councils Innovation Fund was established in January 2010 in conjunction with the Solar Councils Pilot Program. The fund issued grants to 12 Councils for Community Energy Efficiency Projects.

The councils and project titles are listed below:

  • Adelaide Hills - Local Energy Security and Investment Strategy
  • Tea Tree Gully - Renewable and/or energy efficiency feasibility studies
  • Victor Harbor - Sustainable lighting for community areas. Hybrid renewable energy options
  • Campbelltown - Community investment in renewable energy generation
  • Port Lincoln - Solar installation and community education and awareness program
  • Mount Remarkable - Investigation of large scale solar farm development opportunities
  • Flinders Ranges - Solar public lighting
  • West Torrens- Solar PV battery storage
  • Marion- LED lighting on Railway Terrace
  • Northern Areas- Floating solar
  • DC Grant- Solar panel guidelines
  • Campbelltown- Community solar project

More information on the Solar Councils Innovation Fund can be found on the Zen Energy website:

Building Upgrade Finance (BUF)

Building Upgrade Finance (formerly referred to as Environmental Upgrade Finance) is a mechanism which helps building owners to access loans to improve the energy, water and environmental efficiency of existing commercial buildings.  

Under the Building Upgrade Finance mechanism, a local council can voluntarily enter into a building upgrade agreement with a building owner and a financier. Under a building upgrade agreement the building owner agrees to undertake upgrade works in respect of their building. The financier agrees to advance money to the building owner for the purpose of funding the upgrade works, and the council agrees to levy a building upgrade charge against the land on which the building is situated. This charge is paid by the building owner to recoup the money advanced by the financier for the upgrade works, and is passed on to the financier by the council once received from the building owner.

The loan is tied to a property rather than a property owner and loan repayments are collected via a local government charge that is levied on the property and passed on to the financier.

As a result of the arrangement, the loan is effectively tied to the property rather than the property owner, with loan repayments collected via the building upgrade charge. In the event of the transfer of ownership of the property, the charge can remain with the property if the purchaser so agrees.

The strength of the mechanism lies within the building upgrade charge. The charge effectively secures the loan, being ranked senior to mortgages, taxes and other charges in the event of default. This provides heightened security to the financier, allowing them to offer finance to the building owner at more attractive terms.

Under many commercial leases, tenants pay local government charges.  Building Upgrade Finance provides an avenue for building owners and tenants to share the costs and benefits of building upgrades, provided certain conditions are met to ensure that tenants do not incur any financial detriment.

The mechanism is currently being implemented. Further information will be made available on this page as it becomes available.

The business case for BUF can be accessed here.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Consumption Local Government Benchmarking Pilot

As part of the review of LGA climate change activities that was conducted between April and September 2013, Councils have reaffirmed the importance of the LGA continuing to:

  • Support Councils to measure and monitor emissions to meet local, state and national greenhouse gas emissions targets;
  • Identify opportunities for Councils to undertake carbon emission reduction projects; and
  • Develop and support initiatives that contribute to carbon mitigation actions.

The review also identified the importance of the LGA developing an overall framework for monitoring and evaluating mitigation activities to substantiate the viability of actions and justify long-term investment.

Feedback during the review recognised that for an overall framework to be implemented, it will be necessary for the Local Government Sector in South Australia to develop a consistent approach and common language to emissions management and reporting.

In addition, the review also identified that emission reporting improvements are required for Councils to be able to adequately demonstrate the robustness of their approach, in particular:  

  • Improving the quality of emissions data;
  • Increasing understanding of GreenPower and offsets; and
  • Agreeing on a context in which to set reduction goals. 


In April 2013, the LGA Secretariat hosted a workshop with the aim of exploring potential approaches to developing consistency in energy and greenhouse gas reporting across the sector, and to test the idea of developing a pilot program.  The outputs of the workshop indicated strong support for such a program.

The workshop demonstrated the benefits for the Local Government sector as a whole, as well as indicating ways in which individual Councils will benefit.

The benefits for the Local Government Sector in South Australia are:

  • Consistent sector reporting (standardised facilities and metrics);
  • Robust data collection mechanisms;
  • Database of sector wide data;
  • Increasing collaboration and Council capabilities; and
  • Agreement on types of emissions to be included/excluded.

The benefits for individual Councils participating in the pilot are:

  • Improving the ability to use standard metrics;
  • Assessing performance objectively, and prioritising improvement opportunities;
  • Identifying actions that offer the greatest potential return on investment;
  • Highlighting best practice from other Councils, and the best ways to incorporate successful aspects into current processes; and
  • Being able to clearly demonstrate the financial returns to Council made through mitigation activities.

The pilot was undertaken between May 2015 and October 2015 with the participation of 11 councils, namely:

  • Alexandrina
  • Marion
  • Mitcham
  • Onkaparinga
  • Salisbury
  • Tea Tree Gully
  • Mount Barker
  • Murray Bridge
  • Burnside
  • Campbelltown
  • Holdfast Bay

The final report can be found here.

Resources & Information Papers


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