Australia & New Zealand Sustainability Circle

(2pm 21 March, 12 Clayton Utz, 1 Bligh St)

Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. 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 this City.

I was asked today to outline how Sydney might evolve into a great world city while achieving environmental sustainability, maintaining economic vitality and ensuring continued social cohesion.

Like the young woman of years gone by who "just happened to have brought her music with her", we just happen to have a plan already in place that will enable our city to achieve these goals.

We call it Sustainable Sydney 2030. It's a comprehensive plan for Sydney's future, one which we begun working on in late 2006.

We recognised that with more than half the world's population now living in cities - in Australia, its well over that figure - and cities being major emitters of greenhouse gases, it was here that we had to make the changes that would give us a prosperous and sustainable future.

Climate change demands big transformative changes - to our transport systems, to our energy infrastructure, to the better use of our natural and human resources.

In 2007, we engaged a consortium led by SGS Economic and Planning to work with us to develop Sustainable Sydney 2030.

We began with the most comprehensive program of consultation and research the City has ever undertaken. We involved residents, big and small businesses, universities and cultural institutions, and other levels of government.

We looked at environmental sustainability but also at Sydney's economic, social and cultural life, its physical form and future needs, its assets and liabilities.

We formulated a comprehensive strategy which responds to the aspirations of thousands of people who told us they want a city that is sustainable, smart, open and inclusive; a city that is clever in the ways it does business, locally and internationally; that is less congested and a more attractive place to be and to get around.

We began preparing Sustainable Sydney 2030 in a far more benign economic climate. The global financial meltdown and the present uncertainty has only made it more imperative that we future-proof the city by being smarter and more sustainable on every front, and that we use our sustainability credentials as a selling-point to attract future business and investment.

We're now in the process of implementing our plan to achieve those goals.

A key platform of the 2030 plan involves reducing our greenhouse emissions by 70 per cent. At present, 80 per cent emissions come from centralised power generation, most of it coal-fired. It's inefficient - two-thirds of primary energy goes into the atmosphere in the form of waste heat, with further energy lost in transmission from remote power stations to the places the energy is actually used.

It is also polluting; it relies on non-renewable resources and it is the major cause of climate change.

We have developed a Green Infrastructure Master Plan, under the guidance of Allan Jones - the man who took the Borough of Woking off the grid. It provides for locally-generated electricity, initially gas-fired and eventually switching to renewable gases.

Trigeneration will provide combined cooling, heat and power, and will form part of our green transformers system which will also comprise waste and recycled water.

By 2030, in tandem with demand reduction measures, we will be supplying 70 per cent of the city's electricity needs, while reducing greenhouse emissions by more than a third.

We are now negotiating a Heads of Agreement with Cogent Energy, and we are expecting to sign in early April. This sets out the framework for the future and will allow us to enter detailed negotiations for the construction and supply of trigeneration across our local government area.

We plan to locate systems in City-owned properties, such as pools and our own headquarters at Town Hall House where the thermal and air-conditioning demands are highest.

This is a tremendously exciting step forward - attracting increasing interest from the business sector which is only too aware of the rapidly escalating cost of power due to the need to renew infrastructure on the outdated coal-fired network. A number of new individual developments such as the recently completed Dexus building while the Frasers development on Broadway already have, or will have, their own locally-produced power/precinct based.

While we are developing green infrastructure, and greener buildings, the vast proportion of our city consists of buildings that will be with us for another generation. While the base building itself may account for half the greenhouse emissions, the tenancies - which change more rapidly - account for the other half.

Hence the CitySwitch program - now a national program - involving cities, local government areas and the Department of Environment and Climate Change, helping tenants retrofit older buildings.

We have just extended the Sydney program for a further three years to mid-2015, supporting the current 68 significant businesses and targeting a further 200,000-plus square metres of office tenancies where energy efficiencies can be improved.

Fture-proofing our whole range of building stock is vital and the City of Sydney is helping our residents and businesses to do that through a number of programs.

Already, the Australian property industry has reached a standard acknowledged as world's best-practice in 2010 in the Maastricht report which said "It is clear that property companies from all over the world can learn from Australian best practices in environmental management."

Our programs include the Smart Green Apartments program for large residential buildings and the Better Buildings Partnership which develops collaborations between tenants and building owners.

The Better Building Partnership involves the City's leading property owners, who between them control almost 60 per cent of our commercial office space. New partners include the TAFE Sydney Institute and the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. The partnership also includes associate members the Green Building Council of Australia and the Property Council of Australia.

With their support we are working to develop the commercially viable infrastructure that will support the creation of low-carbon zones across the City. These will ultimately be available to the entire property market, and allow for retrofitting of existing commercial buildings.

Together, we are building the commercial case for building owners to connect to our Green Infrastructure as well as technical standards and a road map for implementation.

At the same time, we are working with them through a range of concerns - from whether property managers have the necessary skills and resources to the critical issue of sustainability benchmarking - not to mention how owners and tenants finance the necessary work.

The Smart Green Apartments project is a five-year program to transform 700 buildings in the local government area into more sustainable apartment buildings.

We're now in phase one of the project, piloting audits of energy and water use, and waste output, with upgrades planned in five buildings.

Lighting is a significant contributor to urban greenhouse emissions. Globally, it contributes six per cent of emissions - double that of global air travel.

In 2009, we launched an 18-month trial of LED lighting in four city locations, with encouraging results. A subsequent public survey showed 92 per cent of respondents found the new lights appealing; most also thought they improved visibility and a sense of safety. Eight in ten respondents preferred the new lights to the old.

Now we're ready to roll-out the new lighting. When fully implemented, the new lighting will halve electricity use and carbon pollution, as well as save substantial amounts each year in electricity bills, maintenance costs and avoided carbon tax.

Throughout our development of the 2030 strategy, we have followed the principle of "show by doing" - in other words, making changes to our own properties and practices. We have set ourselves the target of reducing our own emissions by 20 per cent this year.

We have now begun a major energy and water overhaul of our major buildings, due for completion this year which will help us reach that target.

When complete, the $6.9 million project will have retrofitted 45 of our major buildings, including Town Hall House, Customs House, the Woolworths building, community centres, libraries and car parks.

They will be fitted with energy-efficient lighting, air-conditioning and heating, centralised power management systems and voltage reduction units to slash electricity use by pumps, fans and lights. Water-saving devices include aerated taps and shower heads, and waterless urinals.

The retrofit will cut 7,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, taking our overall reductions to 19.9 per cent. In addition to significant savings in energy and water, it will also reduce maintenance costs and avoid carbon pollution costs, paying for itself over six years.

We have already undertaken major works at our heritage-listed Town Hall, installing energy efficient lights, smart sensors to switch lights off and Sydney's largest array of solar panels on the northern roof, which provides power to Councillors' offices and the Council Chamber, showing that even our most cherished heritage buildings can be made sustainable.

We have greened our vehicle fleet, installing solar panels on our depot to power the electric vehicles; introducing hybrid vehicles; switching to biofuel and educating drivers in reducing emissions.

We are also gradually switching to solar energy. A few years ago we were spending up to $2 million a year buying accredited green power. Now that money is being directed to a five-year $12 million solar fund which is allowing us to fit more council buildings with solar panels, increasing the wattage generated by about 20-fold.

Sustainable Sydney 2030 is not only about environmental sustainability. It is a comprehensive plan to make our city more attractive, more liveable and to support its social diversity and social cohesion as it continues to grow.

The most visible element of our commitment to date are the separated cycleways. We are investing $87 million in a 200 km network that will contribute to a healthier population and decongest the City centre by providing safe routes right across the City, with the eventual aim of a regional network.

Every person commuting by bicycle means one more car off the road. An independent study we commissioned found a regional cycle network would deliver at least $506 million in net economic benefits, or almost $4 for every dollar spent, over a 30 years period.

Like other parts of our 2030 plan, the cycleways represent a major cultural shift. Such shifts are difficult, especially in the transitional period, and they inevitably attract the backlash of those fearful of change. However, Sydneysiders are defying the shock-jocks and increasingly using the network.
We have planted thousands of trees across our local government area and installed rain gardens to collect and filter storm water. Together these not only improve air-quality and absorb greenhouse emissions but also make walking and cycling a more appealing option.

We recognise, of course, that even if we had a greatly improved public transport network, people will always needs a private car at least part of the time. So we support car-share groups with designated on-street parking spaces, allowing residents easy access to a car within a few minutes' walk. It's estimated that each share vehicle is used by up to 10 people.

We've identified 10 village groups across our local government area, most of them centred around traditional main streets. We're working with residents, local businesses and community groups to shape a range of economic and social activities that will give each village a strong focus on opportunities for meeting, creativity, learning and working.

Throughout our Sustainable Sydney 2030 consultations, we were mindful that a global city should be a lively social mix, and that essential workers such as teachers, nurses and firemen should also be able to live in the City. As a first step towards promoting affordable housing, we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NSW Government to work jointly on a site in Glebe for affordable housing.

In the CBD, we are adding to the city's charm and diversity through a program to reclaim and enliven our city laneways.

This ranges from our annual Art & About festival animating selected lanes through temporary art installations - one of which became so popular we've recreated it as a permanent feature - through to matching cash grants for small businesses. This is bringing forgotten parts of the city back to life with small bars and quirky retail outlets.

We have established a number of advisory panels - on Indigenous issues, on design and public art - to give us high-level expert advice. This is bearing fruit in a proposed Eora Journey which will highlight and celebrate the ancient and continuing presence of the first Australians.

It has also seen a number of City projects - the Surry Hills Library and Community Centre; Paddington Reservoir Gardens; Pirrama Park; Redfern Park & Oval; the Sydney Park Amenities Building win a swag of state, national and international awards for design excellence.

The City we envisage - healthy, prosperous, sustainable and beautiful - will not simply materialise. We have to work to make it happen. I am confident we have the right plan in place; we are already making a significant impact both on the physical shape of the City and on how we operate and use it.