Institute for Sustainable Futures 15th Anniversary Event

(6.30pm, Wednesday 31 October 2012, Great Hall, UTS Sydney)

Thank you, Professor Milbourne [MC] and good evening, everyone. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who live in our city.

I also acknowledge:

  • The Vice-Chancellor and President of UTS, Professor Ross Milbourne
  • The Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Attila Brungs
  • Tim Costell, AO, CEO of World Vision Australia and
  • Alicia Cock, who will speak on a young person's vision for the future

We need an over-arching vision that guides us - and we need the practical tools to get us there. If we are to deal with revival of the massive challenge of climate change, that will enable us to change the way we live, work, the way we get around and do business. It's also shaped a growing awareness that our cities will not remain productive, sustainable and liveable by accident.

In helping provide those tools, the Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF) plays a most important role. So it is a pleasure to share this 15th anniversary with you.

When I was first elected Lord Mayor in 2004, I committed to playing our part to address the challenge of climate change. As an early step, the City engaged its first staff member to work specifically on these environmental issues.

In 2006, the Institute of Sustainable Futures worked with our fledgling Environmental Development Unit to draft our first comprehensive Environmental Management Plan. While the City already had many environmental programs, we lacked a long-term strategic framework to guide our progress.

Now, we are making extraordinary progress with 30 high-calibre staff working directly on strategies for water, waste, and carbon, on environmental and sustainability programs involving the public, commercial and residential spheres, and on urban ecology.

In 2006, the City began work on Sustainable Sydney 2030, the long-term plan for our city's environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability. We commissioned extensive research and commenced historically broad consultation with residents, business, government, retail and other sectors.

We wanted a vision that could inspire support—so that vital long-term work continues, notwithstanding who is in government in George Street, Macquarie Street or indeed Canberra.

Since that time, we have formed an on-going collaboration with the Institute for Sustainable Futures and, in 2011, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UTS. These partnerships help us establish targets and tools to ensure our vision is a practical strategy, not a report gathering dust on a shelf.

One major project initiated through Sustainable Sydney 2030 is our Green Infrastructure Plan, which establishes an integrated approach to energy, water and waste, enabling by-products of one process to be used in another. It comprises five master plans, including plans for trigeneration, renewable energy, advanced waste treatment, decentralised water and automated waste collection.

And the Institute for Sustainable Futures is a vital partner to progress this work.

The Institute provided us with leading work in 2010 on the potential benefits of decentralised energy for NSW electricity consumers, as part of our trigeneration plan to reduce greenhouse emissions in the City by up to a third and supply 70 per cent of energy locally.

That research demonstrated what much of our media and governments is only just realising — that the billions of dollars of expenditure on upgrading and extending the electricity network is the main driver for the sharp rise in electricity prices.

More disturbing still, that "wire and substation" approach sustains demand for centralised, coal-fired electricity, contributing to the high and rising levels of greenhouse gas pollution.

The Institute's work demonstrated back that that, if electricity regulators support expenditure on energy efficiency, peak load management and decentralised generation, Australia could see significant reductions in energy cost pressures and greenhouse gas emissions.

ISF has also provided vital research on water efficiency as part of our decentralised Water Master Plan. This is important as reducing demand is always cheaper and more environmentally beneficial than the more intensive alternatives.

Your ground-breaking research analysed water consumption data (from Sydney Water) with the City's fine-grain floor space data to uncover very different water use patterns for different sectors. The research delves behind the high level average data to enable more targeted investment in water efficiency programs.

ISF also worked with the McCaughey Research Centre to prepare a Community Indicator Framework for us, aligned with Sustainable Sydney 2030. This involves a range of social, cultural, economic, environmental and governance measures to track our progress.

That work goes beyond traditional economic measures such as GDP to describe the wellbeing of our community, guide the City's budget and policy decisions, and help gauge the progress of our Sustainable Sydney 2030 program.

I am inspired by the work done by this Institute, and by our numerous collaborations with you.

I am optimistic that the quest for a sustainable future can lead to a greener, more prosperous and liveable city.

Thank you for all you do to make that a reality, and once again, congratulations on your 15th anniversary.