City Talks - Climate Change Review

(Lower Town Hall)

Hello, everyone, welcome to our Town Hall tonight. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

I especially welcome Professor Ross Garnaut, who will outline his report from the Climate Change Review.

In late May, the Federal Government's Climate Commission released its review of the science of climate change.

It concluded that climate change is real, it is occurring at a rapid rate, and that two degrees is the maximum temperature change before our planet risks tipping into catastrophic climate change.

It noted that we are in "the critical decade" and that the decisions we make from now up to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience.

Yet the political debate in Australia scarcely reflects the urgency of this threat.

Our Federal Government is committed to a mere five per cent cut in emissions by 2020, and debate still rages about a price on carbon. The Federal Opposition shamefully opposes emissions trading and encourages climate denial by arguing the science isn't settled.

So Professor Garnaut's presence here tonight is important for our understanding of the situation at this time.

The City has taken a strong position on advocacy and action. We say that we "show by doing".

When the Federal government lost its nerve after Copenhagen, the City recommitted to innovative, low-carbon solutions, to share our research with other levels of government and with the private sector, and to build partnerships for a strong and sustainable future.

We were the first Australian local government to become carbon neutral in 2007 by buying green power and carbon offsets.

Since then, we've completed 18 solar projects, reducing emissions by 180 tonnes, and we have established a $2 million a year renewable energy fund.

Building retrofits have helped us reduce emissions by 17 per cent across our property portfolio since 2006 and our trial of LED street lighting shows it can halve energy use, and we're now installing LED lighting on our 8,500 street lights and encouraging other authorities to follow suit.

Our residential communities have responded with enthusiasm to the range of tools we provide to help reduce their carbon footprint, whether it's workshops on water saving and reducing energy use, or growing vegetables in a community garden.

The business sector has been equally keen to join our CitySwitch program which helps office tenants to reduce energy demand and also save on spiralling power bills.

By the middle of next year, this program will have 200 signatories covering a million square metres of floor space in the City of Sydney, reducing emissions by 52,000 tonnes a year.

Cities are responsible for up to 75 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, so strong action in cities is vital to reducing emissions.

To play our part, the City has committed to a 70 per cent reduction in emissions across the LGA by 2030, based on 2006 levels.

We've identified the strategies needed to meet our target, as shown in our waterfall chart.

We are now well on track to meet that target, and to overcome the 17 per cent shortfall that we identified in 2008.

We are being assisted in that by Allan Jones, formerly of the London Climate Change Agency, known as the man who took the British borough of Woking off the grid, and now our Chief Development Officer for Energy and Climate Change.

His presentation of Sydney's work on low carbon energy supply was followed with great interest at workshops in the recent C40 Large Cities Summit in Sao Paolo.

By 2030, energy supply in Sydney will be transformed, with all of it produced locally through renewable energy and trigeneration.

We will no longer rely on wasteful, polluting and expensive high-carbon electricity from the Hunter Valley. Rather, we will build a local trigeneration network for low-carbon power, heating and cooling. Initially powered by natural gas, it will eventually be fuelled by renewable gas from waste treatment.

Our own City properties will be the initial sites for low-carbon zones and we are now examining whether a public-private joint venture will deliver the most efficient and effective roll-out.

Our trigeneration plan will be completed this year. The interim report shows the project could exceed our target of 330 megawatts and provide a sound financial return for the system operator, with a limited public subsidy of $190 million between 2010 and 2030.

A carbon price would further strengthen the commercial performance, or reduce the subsidy.

We are establishing a partnership with Sydney's biggest landlords - owners committed to reducing emissions because they recognise the commercial advantage. Together, 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 trigeneration network will deliver sustainable energy, and also water and waste infrastructure across the City, co-locating recycled water and automated waste collection facilities with the tri-generation infrastructure.

Green Square - our largest redevelopment site - we hope will be Australia's first low-carbon precinct.

With NSW electricity prices slated to rise by 42 per cent over the next three years, green infrastructure is an ever-more-appealing alternative, delivering energy security and price stability and reducing the need for multi-billion dollar upgrades to coal-fired infrastructure.

As well as retrofitting the City for clean energy, reduced waste and less water use; We are advocating for efficient and effective public transport and we've budgeted for $180 million for public domain works and business revitalisation for light rail on George Street and we'll continue to build and connect our bike network as a healthy, emission and congestion reducing transport option. I hope you will all use it!

Sydneysiders and business owners care about their local villages and they're global citizens who are changing the way they live and work to address global warming.

As is often the case, local Government, industry and the community are leading the way and we hope Federal and State Governments will follow.

I believe that with energy, imagination and cooperation we can deal with the challenges of climate change, and at the same time improve Sydney's capacity to become one of the most energetic, thriving and liveable cities of the 21st century.

And now I would like to introduce Professor Garnaut who is a distinguished economist, author and editor, vice chancellor, former advisor to Prime Minister Bob Hawke, former Australian Ambassador to China, and he is an independent expert advisor to the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee.