• Healthy Reef Partnership

Carbon neutrality: What is it & why do it?

Carbon neutral means reducing emissions where possible and compensating for the remainder by investing in carbon offset projects to achieve zero emissions.

For the record …

Douglas Shire Council would like to acknowledge that its delivery of the announcement of the Healthy Reef Partnership and its carbon neutral vision may have caused confusion and would like to take this opportunity to clarify how this exciting initiative will work.

The three-year partnership covers Council’s operations only and is the first step as part of a longer-term, ecotourism vision to make the whole shire carbon neutral.

Offsetting Council’s carbon footprint is an important step to making Douglas Shire the leading sustainable tropical destination.

We have updated Council’s website and Facebook page to better reflect the long-term aspirations of the project, as well as more accurately defining what the three-year partnership hopes to achieve.

Council is actively looking for more local carbon offset projects in Douglas Shire that complement the three-year partnership.

Next steps …

  • Council aims to finalise the details of the Qantas partnership in the next 6-8 weeks.
  • An official launch will be organised once the partnership has been finalised.


Council staff will audit Council’s carbon footprint and continue to plan changes to day-to-day operations that reduce it.

Council will then offset its footprint through the Healthy Reef Partnership with Qantas.

These activities will be reported to the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy to seek compliance under the National Carbon Offset Standard.

Council will be audited every three years to ensure Council is actively reducing its carbon footprint and complying with the NCOS standard.

We have developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below to help answer any questions you may have.




Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will all of the Shire be covered for carbon neutrality by this deal?

No. The current deal covers Council operations only.

Tourism Port Douglas Daintree (TPDD) members can sign up under the same deal, but those deals will be between Qantas and the specific business.

The deal will enable Council to offset its current estimated carbon footprint, which is an important part of Council’s vision to become the leading sustainable tropical destination.


Will Council become National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) compliant?

Council will be seeking National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) compliance.

This means that Council will need to audit its carbon footprint in line with the Standards and register with the Australian Government Department of Environment and Science for NCOS compliance.

* The National Carbon Offset Standard (the Standard) is a voluntary standard to manage greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve carbon neutrality. It provides best-practice guidance on how to measure, reduce, offset, report and audit emissions for organisations, products & services, events, precincts and buildings. (Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy)



How will Council be able to claim NCOS compliance when it hasn’t reduced any of its emissions and has no program to do so?

The NCOS standard has five steps:

1) Measure

 2) Reduce

3) Offset

4) Report

5) Audit.


Source: The Australian Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard for ORGANISATIONS



Council has estimated its current carbon footprint at 6,400 tonnes. However, to become NCOS compliant, Council will need to include Scope 3 emissions, which include such things as employee commute and paper usage. This means that the total footprint is likely to increase.


Council has current and planned strategies to reduce the scope of its emissions.

These include:

  • Undertake remaining actions in the 2017-2020 Corporate Sustainability Strategy.
  • Founding Cities Power Partnership member
  • Climate Change General Policy (Council Operations)
  • Using renewable energy to power council buildings
  • Installing variable speed pumps throughout Council’s Water and Wastewater network and Mossman swimming pool to reduce power demand consumption.
  • Continued reduction in waste to landfill and development of reuse and recycling programs for materials.
  • Reducing water loss and misuse (works at Mossman WTP), and the relining of Council’s sewerage network to reduce infiltration.
  • Increased usage of recycled water from Council’s WWTP.
  • Planting native trees in parks and gardens and developing strategy for the re-planting of suitable Council controlled areas.
  • Planning, replacing and building new walking and cycling networks to encourage walking and cycling as an alternative to vehicles, particularly for ride to school and work.
  • Undertaking works on public buildings that reduce cooling needs through insulation and painting.
  • Installing solar lighting and replacing existing lighting with LED lighting where appropriate. This includes some public areas and Council buildings as existing lighting requires replacement.


The 2019-2024 Corporate Plan articulates several strategies to reduce Council’s footprint including:

  • Implement carbon neutral strategy.
  • Continue to develop renewable energy options for Council operations including a solar engineering study for Port Douglas Waste Water Treatment Plant
  • Develop a Waste Strategy with the aim of moving towards a circular waste economy.
  • Implement a Cape Tribulation transfer station.
  • Council will develop a new Corporate Sustainability Strategy for the period 2020 – 2025.


The NCOS standard requires an organisation to develop an Emissions Reduction Strategy and Council will develop that strategy to include initiatives noted above.


As Council continues to reduce its carbon footprint, it will offset the balance.

It is expected that over time, as the total footprint is reduced, the amount of offsets required will reduce. It is acceptable under the NCOS standard to offset the organisational footprint while pursuing reduction strategies.


Council will need to report its footprint, reduction strategies and offsets every year.


Council will be required to audit its reporting and activities against the Standards every three years.



What was the rationale for this partnership?

Douglas Shire Council seeks to take a leadership role in eco sustainability.

A partnership with one of Australia’s trusted brands, Qantas, helps us to conserve our environment and deliver significant destination marketing benefits.

Qantas has demonstrated offsetting carbon since 2007 and their current projects have proven invaluable in offsetting carbon, some areas include the Kangaroo Island, the Northern Kimberley Region and Papua New Guinea.

With Qantas and Green Collar, Council will be able to make a difference to the harm we do to our environment.


What will Qantas bring to the partnership?

This partnership will raise Council’s profile on a national and international level, embracing the marketing power of Australia’s trusted brands.

The whole region will benefit by having destination-marketing opportunities through the Qantas Future Planet global promotion.

TPDD and Qantas are currently finalising the details.


Why Colodan?  Aren’t there alternatives in Douglas Shire?

Colodan is the site for the current proposal and will enable Council to receive NCOS compliant Australia Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) from the moment the contract is signed.

Many councils buy their carbon credits in overseas locations.

For example, City of Melbourne offset their carbon footprint through initiatives such as wind energy projects in China and India.

Council’s Corporate Plan for 2019-2024 articulates numerous strategies to protect the local environment and reduce Council’s carbon footprint.

As detailed above, Council is currently doing and planning many activities that reduce its carbon footprint.

Plans are underway to bring the offsetting to Douglas Shire to complement the three-year partnership.

Council anticipates that over time, as the organisation’s footprint is reduced, fewer offsets will be required.


How will this benefit the Shire?

Council will be striving towards eco-tourism certification in the 2019-20 financial year.

The Top 100 Eco-Destination initiative aims to recognise tourism destinations that work towards making a difference and inspiring environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible tourism.

The ECO Destination Certification program assures travellers that certified destinations are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices and provides high-quality nature-based tourism experiences within the region.

The “responsible traveller” is a rising tourism industry that has potential to capitalise off our two World Heritage areas in the shire.

The carbon neutral initiative, in partnership with TPDD and Qantas, is the first of its kind and will help Douglas Shire realize its ecotourism potential.


What community consultation was completed?

Recent community consultation for the 2019-24 Corporate Plan revealed economic development, tourism and the environment were high priorities for Douglas Shire ratepayers.

This partnership aims to tick all of those boxes.

The concept of the Reef Friendly Tourism Partnership started in September 2017.

A preliminary Reef Friendly concept was shared with 13 Douglas Shire tourism operators in October last year.

A dedicated Sustainability workshop was run on 10 May 2019, where the model was presented to local businesses, not-for-profits and government agencies.

Meetings were aimed to gauge interest in carbon neutrality and the wider partnership objectives.


Want more information? 

The Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy has plenty of information about going carbon neutral.

Follow the link below for more details: