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The City of Melbourne is showing strong leadership, setting an ambitious goal for Melbourne's CBD reaching zero net emissions by 2020.

Our response to climate change affects the future of life on earth.

There is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to minimise the risk to current and future generations. Much of the global dialogue has shifted towards our businesses and cities, and the increasingly important role they can play.

Reaching zero emissions is the most ambitious target in the shortest timeframe of any city in the world.

The other 99%

We were approached by the City of Melbourne to help them understand and evaluate options to drive change over the coming five years, including evaluating how carbon offsets can be leveraged effectively.
The council is not responsible for 99% of the emissions within the city; they need to use their influence to mobilise their community to change.

City of Melbourne held a strong technical understanding of different interventions to reduce emissions. The objective of this project was to understand the from a social point of view, including the barriers and opportunities that the council might face in influencing the community.

Journey of a change maker

Our initial research centered on inspiring people in the community who had successfully led emission reduction initiatives.

We took some time to understand their journey, the obstacles and counter-tactics they had used to push for change. After conducting several interviews with some pretty inspiring people around the planet, we synthesised their experience into some themes, patterns and insights.

Desk research allowed us to build a cohesive picture of the rather substantial question - what is the context of this complex, global challenge?

Our work formed the bedrock on top of which we designed the strategic approach.

Image of co-design workshop in progress.

Certain unpredictability

We then worked with the City of Melbourne’s Sustainability team to explore their context and identify points of intersection with insights surfaced in our research.

A 'global forecast' workshop was conducted to examine current stakeholder relationships and begin to map predictions of how the next five years may unfold.

The process highlighted that any number of significant global and local events were possible, or even probable, but many were unpredictable. These events, if they occur, will directly impact the work of the team.

Strategic planning in this context means being ready for change, with an increased effort on scanning, rapid decision making and changing existing plans.

New set of frames

Melbourne is lucky to have a sustainability team with so much passion and expertise. We weren’t going to teach them anything about the challenges of climate change that they didn’t already know.

Instead, we wanted to lead them through a process through which some of the complexities would begin to resolve.

Our final deliverable was a document that contained insights and case studies from our research, as well as a strategic toolkit to equip the team to approach the challenge in a way that would help move through the complexity with some confidence.


Melbourne is considered one of the most innovative, creative, livable cities in the world. Reaching this important goal would help to cement our reputation.

We congratulate the City of Melbourne on their leadership; we hope Melbourne rises to this challenge.