Climate Adaptation Knowledge & Partnerships Conference

(8.30am, Tuesday 25 June 2013, Hilton Hotel)

Thank you, Sarah [Boulter, MC], and good morning everyone. Welcome to Sydney and to this knowledge-sharing conference.

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.

Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. With a warming of two degrees, we risk catastrophic climate change - but projections show we are headed for a four to six degree change.

We have always made the case that cities are critical in reducing greenhouse emissions because these centres of mass population cause around 75 per cent of the world's emissions.

The City of Sydney is a member of the C40 Climate Leadership Group, and we are serious about our responsibility to play our part among global cities in addressing climate change.

We recognise a two-fold approach is required that both reduces our greenhouse emissions, and manages those risks and impacts from climate change that cannot be avoided.

Our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy set ambitious, but achievable, goals to reduce our carbon footprint and to green our City.

Our target is to reduce emissions across our own operations and across the City by 70 per cent of 2006 levels by 2030, and we're making good progress.

We've cut emissions by 19 per cent since 2006, and we expect the next verified emissions inventory for the 2012-2013 year to show savings of more than 20 per cent, despite increases in our property portfolio in that time. Contracted projects will further reduce emissions by 29 per cent by 2016.

This is the result of our energy efficiency retrofits Australia's largest building-based solar photo-voltaic system currently being installed, and our roll-out of LED street lighting.

The solar PV installations cover our heritage-listed Town Halls, sports grandstands, a bus station, libraries, council depots and child-care and community centres.

It's been estimated they will supply up to 12.5 per cent of the power needs of our City properties and it's been funded through the monies previously allocated to purchasing renewable energy from the grid.

We became the first city in Australia to roll-out LED street and park lights, replacing over 6.000 conventional lights and saving almost $800,000 a year in electricity bills and maintenance while reducing emissions from the City-owned lights by 51 per cent. The $7 million project will have paid for itself within a decade.

Our project to retrofit 45 of our major buildings for energy and water-saving is now complete.

Our fleet emissions account for about seven per cent of the City's total emissions and I'm happy to report that our four-year target to reduce both light and heavy vehicle emissions by 20 per cent before 2014 has already been met despite the increase in service levels.

Our parks, footpaths and roads are now serviced by diesel-electric hybrid trucks that emit up to 30 per cent less CO2, and we're increasing the number of hybrid vehicles we operate.

Where possible, we use sustainable biofuels in our diesel trucks.

In 2011, the City bought two of the first production electric vehicles in Australia and we've since bought another 12 used by Council staff for inspections and attendance at meetings.

Longer term, we aim to replace up to 50 vehicles, all powered by 100 per cent renewable energy produced by the photovoltaic installations on our own properties. As part of this longer term project, we've now installed seven zero-emission charging facilities in our public parking stations.

The City's tri-generation and renewable energy master plans, approved yesterday by Council, contains a blueprint for how 100 per cent of the City of Sydney's Local Government Area electricity, heating and cooling can come from renewable sources by 2030.

There are already city-wide trigen networks in New York, Berlin, Seoul, and we aim to establish one in Sydney.

We would hope that trigeneration will supply 70 per cent of electricity in the LGA by 2030, with the other 30 per cent coming from solar, wind and waste-to-energy sources. The Renewable Energy Master Plan has established that there are enough renewable gas energy sources within 150 km of Sydney to replace reliance on natural gas (and avoid coal seam gas).

Aside from reducing emissions across the City of Sydney's local government area by 24 - 32 per cent, the tri-generation network would provide the City with an energy solution that is future proof.

The main advantage of trigeneration and other renewable distributed energy solutions is that the energy is being produced where and when it is required, taking pressure off the large transmission networks and improving efficiency and reliability in extreme heat events.

Climate Change Adaptation

When we began our work towards Sustainable Sydney 2030 we aimed to play our part in keeping greenhouse emissions below 350 parts per million (ppm). Now we learn that for the first time in world history, we have almost reached 400 ppm.

We have not had the leadership at either Federal or State levels needed to take the action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Germany shows what can be achieved. Germany has developed a transition plan to shift the country from reliance on nuclear, gas and oil to a range of renewables that will supply 80% of its energy needs by 2050.

Here in Australia, we are already seeing dramatic effects - bushfires, droughts, hurricanes, huge storms, floods, heatwaves.

Sydney is, by and large, a resilient city. Indicators also suggest a relatively high degree of adaptive capacity within the council and built into current policies, strategies and business units.

However, the Sydney Coastal Councils Group identified a series of climate change impacts that will need to be addressed - extreme rainfall and storm water management, sea-level rise, extreme heat and health effects and bushfire.

So like all organisations we must implement risk management plans for climate change adaptation, which is why we are all here.

The City is now developing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the City's operations and the wider LGA, as many other world cities have done. This will of necessity be very wide-ranging, covering the gamut of our activities and responsibilities.

How will our planning controls need to change? Do we schedule events for different times of the day? What and how do we inform the community of possible dangers?

What will the insurance impacts be? How to we involve all the major stakeholders who can control impacts and introduce mitigation?

We will be tendering for this work shortly, and hope that plan will be in place by this time next year.

The City has been integrating climate change adaptation measures into current processes, strategies and plans over time - increasing the city's tree canopy, drought-proofing our parks, and information gathering exercises such as flood-plain modelling and temperature measuring which will help provide us with a solid basis of information.

A key strategy towards making our City more resilient in the face of climate change is our Decentralised Water Master Plan.

This comes in three parts: reduce demand, provide sustainable water supply sources, and improve stormwater quality.

At present, only two per cent of our drinking quality water is actually drunk. Other uses such as catering and showering might bump that figure up to 50 per cent but the rest of this precious water flushes toilets, is used in air-conditioning cooling towers, waters our parks and gardens.

Given our expected population growth, our ageing water infrastructure and intensifying drought-flood cycles it is vital we reduce mains-water use for non-drinking purposes.

Our Master Plan went on public exhibition late last year.

It provides a blueprint for:

  • Reducing 10 per cent of mains water demand - again from 2006 levels - by 2030 through efficiency measures
  • Reducing 25 per cent of the demand within our own buildings and operations by 2030
  • Replacing 10 per cent of demand with recycled water by 2030. We also need to lobby federal and state governments to fund wastewater recycling projects to enable us to achieve the national recycling target of 30 per cent for metropolitan cities and finally
  • Reducing 50 per cent of sediments and suspended solids and 15 per cent of nutrients at present discharged into our waterways from storm-water run-off generated within the City by 2030.

By the end of this year, we expect to have completed water efficiency projects across our property portfolio to achieve an annual 20 per cent reduction in use. Like our other targets, this will be independently verified over the next 12 months.

Also by the end of this year, we will have delivered - with the help of some Federal funding - Sydney's largest water-harvesting system in Sydney Park. This is used for irrigation and to top up the park's wetlands.

Other measures are in place to meter and log data to record water usage, with all these measures designed to allow us to provide the same high-quality assets and services, despite a variable climate future.

The City also has an Urban Forest Strategy.

The trees and vegetation within the City play a vital role in its health, well-being, aesthetics and economic sustainability, and will become more important as our climate changes.

On hot summer days, cities can be several degrees hotter than their rural surrounds as the sun's heat is absorbed, and not reflected, by buildings, dark roofs and roads - the urban heat island effect.

The urban heat island intensifies heat waves in cities, putting people at increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat waves kill more Australians than any other extreme weather event, and there are projections that heat-related deaths for people aged over 65 in Australia's largest cities will double.

Hotter temperatures also increase the demand for air conditioning, increasing energy use when demand is already high and the stress on energy networks.

Urban forests have proven to be one of the most effective methods for mitigating heat retained in urban centres.

It has been calculated that a 5% increase in canopy cover can reduce summer air temperatures by 1-2 degrees Celsius.

Canopy coverage over paved surfaces is also a cost-effective means of reducing emissions of hydrocarbons involved in ozone depletion, controlling stormwater run-off, and increasing pavement longevity.

In one year, as single tree provides the cooling equivalent of 10 air-conditioners, absorbs 3400 litres of stormwater and filters 27 kilograms of pollutants and 21 kilograms of carbon from the air.

Our goal is to increase the average total canopy cover from the current 15.5% to 23.25% by 2030, and increase the age spread and diversity of species of trees.

This builds on the planting of over 8,650 new street trees since 2005 and the installation of 35,000 square metres of landscaping throughout the City's streets since 2008.

The City is also currently investigating the application of green roofs and walls to reduce heat loading, and assessing future storm water and flood management.

There is much work still to be done to build our city's resilience to climate change. But we have the tools ready, and the endorsement of our residents and businesses to get on with the job.

I wish you all a productive time at this conference, and keep up the very important work you are doing.