Climate Commission Public Panel Event

(12pm 12 September 2011, Lower Town Hall)

Good afternoon. I would like firstly to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, and I pay my respects to the Elders, both past and present.

It is a great honour to welcome representatives of the Climate Commission - Australia's Chief Climate Commissioner Professor Tim Flannery, and the Commission's international guests to the City of Sydney.

I'm pleased the Climate Commission is holding this important public event here at Sydney Town Hall to report on the progress of international action in dealing with climate change. This is a critical element missing from the current debate.

Despite reports to the contrary, Australia is not the first country to propose a price on carbon, nor is it the first emissions trading scheme.

In fact NSW introduced the world's first emissions trading scheme in 2003 when it launched the mandatory NSW Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme and the European Union has had a scheme in place since 2005.

Likewise, it is not only developed countries taking action. Two of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and India, have both recently announced measures to reduce their carbon emissions.

I am sure you are looking forward to hearing about these measures from Dr Jiang from China's Energy Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission and Dr Kirit Parikh, chair of the Indian think tank - Integrated Research and Action for Development, about their government's policies.

Governments around the globe are recognising that a low-carbon economy does not mean an end to growth, but rather a much needed impetus to shift from polluting practices to greener technologies.

Indeed, recently reported modelling by Frontier Economics has shown that under a carbon price "there would be 6,400 more jobs in Sydney in 2020 compared to the 'business as usual' scenario".

I am proud that the City I lead is committed to addressing climate change.

We have taken a strong position on advocacy and action - an approach we call "show by doing".

When our national government lost its nerve after Copenhagen, we recommitted to innovative low carbon solutions, to share our research and to build partnerships for action.

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

We are doing this because we know cities are responsible for up to 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and so it's in cities where the greatest opportunities for deep cuts in emissions lie.

We've developed a long term plan by talking to residents, businesses and visitors, and thorough research - and three years on, we're well on track to meet our targets.

Our plan Sustainable Sydney 2030 outlines our key target to have zero reliance on coal-fired electricity and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Sydney's local government area by 70% below 2006 levels and by 2030.

Our most ambitious program will transform energy supply throughout the city, completely replacing our dependence on coal with energy from local tri-generation and renewable sources by 2030.

This is really important because Australia is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world - mainly due to our centralised coal-fired power stations.

Some of the major milestones we've achieved over the past 12 months include:

  • Setting aside $180 million to help transform central Sydney with light rail - the City's biggest single investment since the Sydney 2000 Olympics;
  • Working towards finalising Australia's first Decentralised Energy Master Plan which will supply the city with 100 per cent local low carbon energy in 20 years - the most ambitious government target in the country;
  • Establishing the Sydney Better Buildings Partnership - an Australian-first alliance between Council and Sydney's 13 major landlords who own nearly 60 per cent of the City's office space and more than $100 billion in property assets. They've committed to cut carbon emissions and save energy, water and waste;
  • Completing the first stage of Sydney's 200km bike network. Bike trips have already doubled and tripled on those routes; and
  • Planting 2,000 new trees to help green city streets and villages with another 40,000 street and park trees planned to double our tree canopy over the next 20 years, improving air quality, creating more places for birds and animals to live, cooling the air and cutting power bills.

We all know that we are in the 'the critical decade' and decisions we make from now up to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change that our children and grandchildren experience.

Our Federal Government now has a plan and though the debate remains fierce we are strong supporters of the price on carbon as a mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and averting the worst impacts of global warming.

It is clear that in the present climate, action is the most effective way to advocate urgently needed change in our cities.

We therefore welcome this opportunity to find out more about the action of other nations to mitigate and adapt to climate change.