Danish delegation round table

(3pm, November 21 2011, Reception Room Sydney Town Hall)

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the 200 nationalities who make up our city.

I would also like to acknowledge Michael Hansen, Denmark's Consul-General in Sydney; Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen and Klaus Juhl, CEO of the City of Copenhagen, and of course our own CEO, Monica Barone.

And a warm welcome to all our Danish visitors and to Sydney's Better Buildings Partnership members. Both groups should have a great deal to talk to each other about.

As I have said many times before - including at the Copenhagen Climate Summit Mayors' meeting in late 2009 - cities can play a major role in reducing global greenhouse emissions and showing - to their often reluctant national governments - how significant change can be achieved in the short time that we have available to us.

Up to 80 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions is produced in cities - with the three main sources being buildings, transport and energy generation and distribution.

Under our Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan, Sydney is committed to a 70 per cent reduction on 2006 emission levels by 2030. According to the best available research, that's the target we need to achieve in order to avoid irreversible climate change.

Research we commissioned in 2009 showed that action in Australia's capital cities could lower greenhouse gas emissions by a collective 57 mega-tonnes - that's 57 million tonnes - each year by 2020.

In other words, the capital cities could deliver 41 per cent of Australia's emissions reduction targets by 2020.

At the City of Sydney, we fully accept the proposition that the cost of reducing emissions is far less than the cost of inaction will be in the future. Indeed, as President Clinton has pointed out at the C40 summit, spending on emission reductions creates more jobs.

According to his figures - and they can apply around the world - for each US billion dollars spent on building retrofits to increase sustainability, about 6000 jobs are created. This compares with 870 jobs for each billion spent on coal-fired power plants.

Here, at the City of Sydney, we have adopted a number of approaches to achieving our own targets.

Our first step was to get our own house in order and become Australia's first, officially certified carbon-neutral council.

We have also focused on building partnerships - with our community, our business leaders and with other levels of government.

We have a range of actions and tools at a local level to help our resident communities reduce their environmental footprint, conserve and recycle resources and improve their local environment through tree plantings, rain gardens and storm-water treatment.

We work with big business through the Better Buildings Partnership. Introduced this year, the partnership commits us to working with the City's leading institutional and private landlords who represent almost 60 per cent of the commercial office space in the Sydney CBD.

Its aim is to help us improve the environmental performance of existing buildings, and to facilitate the rollout of, and connection to, the green infrastructure we are planning to introduce across the city.

The partnership will also engage with the regulatory bodies and other levels of government to deal with the regulatory impediments which currently exist in Australia to local energy generation.

This is in addition to our existing CitySwitch Green Office program - a national energy-efficiency program for tenants which is run in partnership between the cities of Sydney, North Sydney, Parramatta, Willoughby, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth, along with the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, and Sustainability Victoria.

Tenants can account for up to 50 per cent of energy use in existing buildings. And while base buildings may be upgraded only every 20 years or so, tenancies typically turn over every three to five years. This high turnover, and its ability to influence greenhouse gas reduction, are why CitySwitch focuses on tenants.

We have the opportunity here to get outcomes in a much shorter time.

The system enables tenants to make significant reductions in energy use - and therefore in their energy costs - through low-cost, or even no-cost improvements and behavioural changes. Signatories commit to achieving a minimum four stars accredited rating through developing an energy action plan.

By July of next year, CitySwitch aims to have close to 200 signatories and cover almost a million square metres of floor space in the City of Sydney, and to reduce greenhouse emissions by 52,000 tonnes a year.

These are all necessary and useful steps but our real "game-changing" move will be the establishment of green infrastructure to locally power our City.

We have engaged Allan Jones - who took the British borough of Woking off the grid and was working in London on Mayor Ken Livingstone's climate strategies - to help us introduce green infrastructure to Sydney.

At present there are individual buildings employing co- or trigeneration but we are now developing a masterplan which will enable us to have a cross-city network of energy, water and waste systems.

The City has an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent by 2030 which can also cut electricity bills for NSW consumers.

At the moment, 80 per cent of the City of Sydney's emissions come from the production of electricity by coal-fired power stations in the Hunter Valley.

Two thirds of the energy being used by these stations is wasted as heat from the cooling towers and on long-distance transmission over power lines to Sydney.
We plan to produce 70 per cent of our energy from local trigeneration - plants which are three times more energy efficient than our existing coal-fired system because they use the waste heat from electricity production to both heat and cool buildings.

The remainder of our energy will come from renewables such as solar. We estimate about half could be generated within our area, with the remainder coming from areas outside of the city. We already have one of the CBD's largest solar arrays on the roof of this heritage-listed building.

The beauty of the decentralised low-carbon and renewable energy plan - in addition to the fact that it will reduce greenhouse emissions, of course - is that while we are installing it we can add a decentralised water system, an alternative waste treatment system, and an automated waste collection process into the mix while we're there.

These things combine into what we call our green infrastructure.

Our first trigeneration systems will be on Council's own sites, including here in the Town Hall precinct, at our aquatic centres and at three or four other sites around the City. There are also numerous other places in our property portfolio which could potentially house tri-gen.

By building a recycled water network that could be used for toilet flushing, watering gardens in commercial and residential properties, we're protecting Sydney's precious supply of drinking water.

We are making progress towards alternative waste treatment and are already sending the City's 40,000 tonnes of household waste a year to advanced treatment facilities.

At the same time, we are investigating the opportunities for Automated Waste Collection, using an underground vacuum pipe network to remove waste from buildings - with the added benefit of taking noisy, smelly and polluting garbage trucks off our City streets.

All of these systems can work together and be installed at the same time. It is a huge investment, so we've put together an independent panel of experts to help us implement our plan.

Allan Jones is responsible for the tendering process for the trigeneration systems which has attracted interest from major energy companies here and overseas. He is also overseeing the rollout of energy efficiency programs on the City's 200 properties and setting up a $2 million dollar a year renewable energy installation fund.

Over the next three years electricity prices in NSW will rise by up to 42 per cent with the majority going to pay for a multi-billion dollar upgrade of the electricity network of cables, poles and substations.

Local trigeneration plants, energy efficiency measures and renewable energy would remove the need for much of this upgrade and also for any new coal-fired power stations that would cost, in total, between $3 billion and $4 billion. It seems a no-brainer to us to remove the regulatory barriers.

Thank you.