Climate Change - Private Members Statement

My constituents are very concerned about accelerating climate change and believe that the only way to stop it is to start doing something about it. Last month's Climate Commission review of climate change science concluded that climate change is real, it is occurring at a rapid rate and two degrees Celcius is the maximum temperature change before our planet risks tipping into catastrophic climate change. At City of Sydney we have taken a strong position on advocacy and action—an approach we call "show by doing". We are responding to the city community, 90 per cent of whom when surveyed told us that they want the city to take action to address global warming.

Speaking at the recent C40 Cities Climate Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I informed mayors from around the world about the City of Sydney's practical steps to retrofit its buildings, street lighting, transport networks and public spaces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We were the first Australian local government to become carbon neutral, in 2007 by buying green power and carbon offsets. We have since completed 18 solar projects, reducing emissions by 180 tonnes, and we have established a $2 million renewable energy fund. Through building retrofits we have reduced emissions by 17 per cent across our property portfolio, and we have trialled low-energy LED street lighting, showing that it can halve energy use. We are installing the proven products on our 8,500 street lights and encouraging others to follow suit.

We are working effectively with the business sector and with residents. The business sector has embraced our CitySwitch program, which reduces energy demand from office tenants. By mid 2012 the program will have enlisted 200 signatories, covering one million square metres of floor space in the city of Sydney and reducing emissions by 52,000 tonnes a year. Cities are responsible for up to 75 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, so we know that it is action in cities that provides the greatest opportunity for deep cuts in emissions. But that can be challenging with our three-tier local, State and Federal system. To play our part, the city has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across our city by 70 per cent by 2030, based on 2006 levels. Through extensive consultation and research we developed Sustainable Sydney 2030, our long-term plan, and identified strategies to meet our targets.

Our most ambitious program will transform energy supply in our city, with 100 per cent produced locally through tri-generation and renewable energy. This is so important given that Australia is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world, mainly due to our centralised coal-fired power stations. To remove reliance on this form of energy, we will build a local tri-generation network for low-carbon power, heating and cooling. While it will be powered by natural gas initially, we plan to use renewable gas from alternative waste treatment. Our tri-generation plan will be completed this year, with the interim report showing that the project could exceed our target of 330 megawatts and provide a sound financial return for the tri-generation systems operator, with a limited public subsidy of $190 million between 2010 and 2030.

A price on carbon pollution would further strengthen the commercial performance. And we have a partnership with Sydney's largest landlords, who are committed to reducing carbon emissions because they recognise the commercial advantage. These corporations own 65 per cent of the city's commercial space and some already operate stand-alone local energy systems for their buildings. Our tri-generation network is the central feature of our innovative Green Infrastructure Plan, which will deliver sustainable energy, water and waste infrastructure across our city. New recycled water and automated waste collection facilities will be co-located with the tri-generation infrastructure. This green infrastructure can deliver energy security and price stability. Over the next three years electricity prices in New South Wales will rise by up to 42 per cent.

In terms of city transport, we have researched and advocated light-rail extensions, and we are building a 200-kilometre bike network to make riding a safe and healthy transport option for those who want to use it. It is complex to retrofit safe, separated bike paths but our twice-yearly bike counts show that the number of riders on completed routes is increasing. Sydneysiders are developing an enthusiastic new cycling culture. Depressingly, the urgency of the threat of climate change is not reflected in the political debate. While the City of Sydney has found that the most effective way to bring about much-needed change in our cities is through practical action, major changes are needed at all levels of government.