Clover Moore: Making Sydney greener

By Clover Moore, Lord Mayor, City of Sydney, from a speech delivered at the Westin Hotel on 1 July this year.

In September 2006, the City of Sydney unanimously endorsed the creation of a long-term vision and strategic plan.

In April 2007 we engaged a consortium led by SGS Economics and Planning to work with us to develop it, and commenced the most comprehensive program of consultation and research the City has ever undertaken. Importantly, their work will not become a report that gathers dust on the shelf. Today is our report back day to you on action and progress so far.

In 2007, we also joined the C40 Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of international cities committed to action on global warming.

Our involvement with C40 confirmed that a long-term, carefully-consulted strategy is vital if Sydney is to retain and strengthen its position as a liveable, progressive and sustainable global city.

It also clearly confirmed that sustainability must be the fundamental, guiding principle—a view shared by 97 per cent of those involved in our consultations who said they wanted us to address global warming.

PROVIDING LEADERSHIP

A major objective of Sustainable Sydney 2030 is to position Sydney as one of the world’s leading green cities in the race to address global warming.

At a recent City Talk, the respected scientist, Tim Flannery, told us that emissions have to peak within the next five years, and then come down thereafter.

We have committed to 70 per cent emission reductions by 2030—not because we think it can be easily achieved, but because the best available research, shows us that is what is needed to play out part in averting catastrophic climate change.

Clearly, there is no time to waste.

We don’t pretend that it will be easy, that it will be done without effort or without controversy.

PREPARING FOR COPENHAGEN

At the recent C40 summit in Seoul, in May this year, President Clinton (he apparently gets that title for life) reported that of the 170 countries that signed up to the Kyoto protocol, 145 won’t meet their emission reduction targets, and only a handful will get there through their own efforts.

He stressed that this is not through lack of concern, but through lack of knowledge about how to achieve them.

He also stressed the important role of city leaders in addressing global warming, particularly as national governments prepare to meet in Copenhagen for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

He said that Mayors are in the business of “how” — so that, when national leaders sign up to emission reductions targets in Copenhagen in December, they won’t fail to honour the commitment because they don’t know “how”.

At the Seoul Summit, I reported on the actions we’re taking here in Sydney to implement 2030 and to reconfigure our city as a sustainable, flexible and vigorous regional leader.

We want to demonstrate what can be achieved in Australia’s cities and to embolden our national government to commit to more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION UNDERWAY

But there are no quick solutions.

We need to work across a range of activities to greatly reduce our current emissions.

The good news is that existing technologies can be harnessed – as Allan Jones, now advising the City of Sydney, proved in the English borough of Woking.

And I am encouraged by the many residents and corporations who have embraced the sustainability agenda with imagination and real commitment—they’re leading governments in making the changes essential for our planet’s future.

The global financial crisis that has erupted since we adopted 2030 in June last year only makes the work more urgent, and investing now in the green economy is our best hope for a sustainable and prosperous future.

At the C40 Summit, President Clinton pointed out that spending on emission reductions actually creates more jobs.  He noted that for each US billion dollars spent on retrofits to increase sustainability, about 6000 jobs are created. This compares with 870 jobs for a similar amount spent on coal-fired plants.

Properly directed, investment in new green city infrastructure can address climate change and the global financial crisis at the same time.

It would generate immediate economic activity while preparing Sydney for a new, low-carbon economy, and make ambitious and responsible Copenhagen commitments a reality.

Sustainable Sydney 2030 provides a framework for the green economy, enabling us to develop a city that is smarter and more sustainable on every front, and one whose green credentials are a selling-point to attract future business and investment.

INTEGRATED STRATEGY

But 2030 is not only about environmental sustainability, but looks holistically at our city – its economic, social and cultural life, its physical form and its future needs, its assets and its liabilities.

It responds to the aspirations of thousands of people who told us they want a city that is smart, open and inclusive; clever in the ways it does business locally and internationally; easier to get around and less congested.

Each action and each longer-term strategy outlined in the 2030 is designed to strengthen and improve the city as a whole. It makes explicit the relationship between sustainability, liveability, a thriving economy, and a safe and cohesive city.

BUILDING PARTNERSHIPS

Throughout the 2030 process, we stressed that partnerships are a vital element in ensuring Sydney realises its potential as one of the world’s great cities. And these include partnerships across all levels of government, and with the private sector.

We are working with the Capital Cities’ Lord Mayors forums; the Inner City Mayors Forum and through programs like CitySwitch, a Sydney initiative originally involving local government and commercial tenants which has now gone national. (The Premier too has committed to a state – city partnership.)

Because the environmental performance of existing buildings is a major challenge, I have invited the top 12 property owners in the City, who represent about 60 per cent of the office space, to partner with us on sustainability.

I’m encouraged by their enthusiasm and initial commitments to work with us on our “Green Transformers” strategy for a network of decentralised power, cooling and heating plants.

There are barriers and there is no better way to understand and resolve them than through implementation.

I have proposed a public pilot project for the Town Hall precinct in partnership with (a project by Frasers Property at the former Calton United Brewery site).

Our working group will include Energy Australia; the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC); and the Department of Water and Energy (DWE).

Colonial First State, Mirvac and GPT have offered information on lessons learnt from projects they have already implemented.

Our restoration of Prince Alfred Park provides another opportunity for tri-generation, and our consultants are now working on options for distributing lighting, heating and cooling for the project itself and parts of the surrounding neighbourhood.

I’m also pleased that Energy Australia has agreed to work with us on our new energy efficient lighting trials.

MANY OTHER PROJECTS

We are also forging ahead with other projects. We’ve recently opened the King Street cycleway, as part of our plan to build a 200-kilometre safe cycling network across the LGA, which will link eventually with a regional cycling network.

Our new Surry Hills Library and Community Centre is an exemplar of the new generation of sustainable public buildings which – not coincidentally – is also very beautifully designed.

Photovoltaic cells on the roof of the Town Hall will show that even our heritage buildings can be green. We’re also investigating alternative waste treatment, and developing a total Water Cycle Management Plan and Decentralised Energy Master Plan.

We continue our work to increase the quality and amount of public space in the City. The striking Paddington Reservoir Gardens was recently opened on Oxford Street and the new Water Police Site Park in Pyrmont is just stunning.

I hope the Sydney Metro project will help us achieve early the vision for a new Town Hall Square, with George Street transformed into a new civic square for public transport, pedestrians and cycling.

We are beginning to implement across the City the ideas of world-renown Danish expert, Jan Gehl—but particularly his vision to transform our central business district into to a pedestrian friendly city heart.

If it can be done in Broadway, we should be able to do it in George Street!

I am pleased that Jan will continue working with us over coming years.

On Monday we adopted our budget for 2009/2010. This is the first budget fully prepared since we adopted Sustainable Sydney 2030 last year, and it sets us firmly on course to achieve the exciting and ambitious plan.

CONCLUSION

It includes projects that are a practical demonstration of our commitment to making a sustainable city. They show it can be done if the political will is there, and we hope we’ll encourage institutions, business and government agencies to think, to build and to operate more sustainably.

We must seize the moment and begin the hugely challenging work of transformation now.

It is not beyond our capacity, or our ingenuity.

It will stretch us.

But if we respond within the framework of a strong, holistic and creative plan for Sydney’s long-term future, I believe it provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to lift Sydney to the top rank of international cities.

And that’s where our city belongs.

We’ve laid the groundwork; we’ve done the research and we’ve started on some of our projects.

Now we need your support to make sure that the plan is realised.

We are now in the action phase!