Green Leader's Summit

(8.45am, Monday 9 September 2013, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth)

Welcome to Sydney, and welcome to this important summit.

Cities may cover only two per cent of the earth's surface, but they are home to more than half the world's population - in Australia, it's even more - and cities are responsible for 75 per cent of the greenhouse emissions that - unchecked - could propel us to catastrophic climate change.

But cities are also the crucibles of ideas and creativity that will help us develop innovative responses to this challenge, and cities are where we can make the deep cuts in emissions that will make a real difference.

The Independent team which I lead was first elected to City of Sydney Council in 2004, on a strong commitment to dealing with climate change and promoting a liveable, sustainable city.

We wanted to involve everyone - residents, the large corporations and the many small and medium-sized businesses, our institutions, visitors and other levels of government - in developing a vision for Sydney as a sustainable global city.

After the most extensive consultations ever undertaken, we published that vision as our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy.

Importantly, it was devised as an action plan, not a document to sit gathering dust on the shelf. And so it sets ambitious, but achievable, targets to make both our City operations and our Local Government Area sustainable and dynamic.

We have also developed a quarterly reporting system that measures our progress against our targets.

In both areas, we have developed a two-fold approach to reduce emissions and to manage those risks and impacts from climate change that cannot be avoided.

In broad terms, our target is to reduce emissions, across our own operations and across the City, by 70 per cent of 2006 levels by 2030.

Despite increases to our property portfolio, we expect that by 2016, contracted projects will further reduce emissions by 29 per cent, in addition to the 23 per cent reduction we expect to have already achieved.

These savings have come through the roll-out of Australia's largest building-based solar photo-voltaic system and the roll-out of LED street lighting. The solar panels will supply up to 12.5 per cent of the power needs of our City properties and are funded through monies previously used to buy renewable energy from the grid.

We became the first city in Australia to install LED street and park lighting - and incidentally saving ourselves almost $800,000 a year in electricity bills and maintenance while achieving a 51 per cent reduction in emissions from City-owned lights. The success of our program has now spurred the NSW Government to announce a roll-out of LED lights across the whole state of NSW.

We've also retrofitted 45 of our major buildings for energy and water-saving and a four-year program to reduce our fleet emissions by 20 per cent is actually doing better than our target, despite an increase in service levels.

Following the Australasian Fleet Management Association's presentation of the 2012 Environment Award to our fleet, our team have been asked to present papers at numerous conferences, once again showing the power of committed leadership.

The diesel-electric hybrid trucks that now service our parks, footpaths and roads emit up to 30 per cent less CO2 and our diesel trucks wherever possible run on sustainable biofuels.

We are also adding to our existing 14 electric vehicles, with a longer term aim of 50 vehicles all powered by the renewable photovoltaic energy installations on our own properties. Towards this aim, we've now installed seven zero-emission charging facilities in our public parking stations.

Our target of a 70 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 involved a tri-generation system like those already operating on a city-wide basis in New York, Berlin, and Seoul but have been partially restricted by the current regulatory environment.

However, we are moving ahead to establish tri-generation to power, heat and cool our Town Hall, Town Hall House and the Queen Victoria building - all Council-owned properties - and to provide a fuel cell at our swimming pool and recreational complex at Prince Alfred Park.

We believe that tri-generation will be able to supply 70 per cent of power needs in the LGA by 2030, with the other 30 per cent coming from solar, wind and waste-to-energy sources. Certainly our Renewable Energy Master Plan has established that there are enough renewable gas energy sources with 150km of Sydney to replace natural gas and avoid tapping into coal seam gas.

Apart from reducing emissions across the LGA by 24-32 per cent, a tri-gen network would provide the city with a future-proof energy solution.

Precinct networks are installed underground and will continue to operate in the event of a failure of the electricity grid. This means they are more resilient in the face of natural disasters and extreme climate change events than electricity grids reliant on remote generation and overhead poles and wires. This has been evidenced with disasters and extreme events around the world, particularly the USA.

We are also preparing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the City's operations and the wider LGA which will cover the gamut of our activities and responsibilities, from planning controls to event planning and many other areas. We're developing that now, with the plan expected to be finalised next year.

We have a Decentralised Water Master Plan to reduce demand, provide sustainable water supply sources and improve storm-water quality.

At present, only two per cent of the drinking-quality water in Sydney is actually drunk, while a massive 50 per cent of that water is used for flushing toilets, and air-conditioner tower cooling and irrigation.

In Sydney Park, we've established the City's largest water-harvesting project which will supply water for irrigation and to top up the wetlands.

By the end of this year, we expect to have completed water efficiency projects across our property portfolio which will give us an annual 20 per cent reduction in use.

In terms of waste reduction, I'm pleased to say we achieved a waste recycling rate of over 65 per cent in the last quarter of 2012-13, and no domestic waste went to landfill this quarter, instead being sent to advanced waste treatment.

We also continue to work with the private sector on programs like Smart Green Apartments which is helping an initial 30 buildings achieved 30 per cent reduction in energy use and a 26 per cent reduction in water use, saving each building up to $74,000 per year.

Similarly the Smart Green Business program involves 366 companies in improving their environmental performance while reducing their operating costs, and our Better Buildings Partnership now has 54 signatories, over 60% commercial property in our CBD.

And of course we continue with the important work of planting trees - almost 9000, since 2005 - and supporting the installation of green roofs and walls.

While these measures add enormously to the aesthetics of the City, they also help reduce summer temperatures, control stormwater run-off, and filter pollutants and carbon from the air.

These are just some of the range of measures all cities will need to work with to become the sustainable and resilient cities of the future. I am sure there are many more you will be discussing at this summit.

Once again, welcome to Sydney and I wish you all a productive time here.