Turning grey cities green

This week I opened the 7th annual Green Cities conference - Australia's largest sustainable built environment event which brings together the nation's top industry and sustainability professionals.

The world's cities cover only 2 per cent of the earth's land surface, but they house well over half the world's population and generate 75 per cent of greenhouse emissions.

No-one solution is right for every city, or every building. We need to develop a deep understanding of our city and the best examples from around the world. But the solutions are out there, and we need to work together, to find them.

The City is a long-term supporter of Green Cities because creating sustainable cities is the essential first step towards a sustainable planet. We also doing more than just talking, we are taking action.

Since 2004, ensuring a safe future for Sydney by shaping it as a sustainable city has been our top priority. Every one of our ambitions for Sydney - that it is prosperous, liveable, equitable, lively and beautiful - can continue to be fulfilled only if it is first sustainable.

We began work on that process shortly after I was elected in 2004, and we are continuing to implement and refine Sustainable Sydney 2030. The targets we've set ourselves for 2030 are ambitious.

They include:

  • Reducing greenhouse emissions by 70 per cent
  • Supplying 100 per cent of our energy from local sources, with 30 per cent from renewable sources
  • Reducing potable water use by 10 per cent

We know that no single initiative will get us to these targets, which is why we need to develop a range of solutions.

We have already reached our target of diverting 66% of household waste away from landfill by improving recycling rates and using Alternative Waste Treatment (AWT).

Retrofitting our buildings was the most cost-effective way to reduce our energy, water and pollution. 45 of our major buildings have been improved with energy and water saving measures. This will reduce greenhouse emissions by 23 per cent a year, and water consumption by over 53,000 kl.

We've also installed LED lights across the city, with the aim of replacing over 6,000 conventional lights, saving almost $800,000 a year in electricity bills and maintenance costs.

Through careful research and planning we have created Master Plans to support a trigeneration network and a decentralised water network. We will also create Master Plans on renewable energy, advanced waste treatment, and automated waste collection.

While trigeneration has helped single developments like the outstanding Number 1 Bligh Street to a six-green star rating, our research showed us that trigen hubs serving all the buildings in a precinct would be more effective than a building-by-building rollout. We continue to do more research and due diligence to understand the costs, risks and benefits of this project.

If achievable we would like to see a hub as part of the massive Green Square urban renewal, at Prince Alfred Park and at Town Hall.

We're also looking to renewable sources to provide 30 per cent of our electricity by 2030, including solar electric panels and hot water, onshore and offshore wind turbines and geothermal and renewable gases.

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