Mayors Voices: Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle on City Climate Leadership Awards

Fresh off Melbourne’s win in the Energy Efficient Built Environment category at the inaugural C40 & Siemens City Climate Leadership Awards, Mayor Doyle discusses the role of cities in tackling climate change.

Lm Robert Doyle Small

City leaders understand the role of our cities as engines of economic growth and national productivity. We know that the ability of nations to compete in today’s global economy rests on the health, vitality and prosperity of cities.

In Melbourne, our ability to be an engine for prosperity and sustainability rests in our own operations.

We built Australia’s first 6 star, Green Star commercial building, setting the standard for buildings across the country. The environmental measures for this initiative cost around AUD$11 million. We thought the payback period for that investment would take 10 years, but the environmental features together with the productivity gain has seen the payback period achieved in 6 years. Following this lead, Melbourne now boasts the highest density of Green Star-rated buildings in Australia.

In my first term as Lord Mayor, I met with C40 Chair, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then Toronto Mayor David Miller. I learned a great deal from them about retrofitting buildings. We faced similar challenges in Melbourne, so we intervened in the market, with cooperation from State Government and banking institutions, to create a winning solution.

Melbourne’s finance mechanism is legislated — it provides property secured finance. For private building owners, this means access to capital, better commercial terms for the life of the loan, improved building performance, and return on investment. Tenants save money as energy costs continue to rise, giving these buildings a competitive advantage. For banks, it enabled a new market and a minimal risk investment.

As a result, the city experienced economic uplift. In the last two years gross local product in the central business district has increased from AUD$58 billion to $68 billion. Fifty thousand new jobs were added during this period, with the construction, professional services and real estate sectors experiencing the most growth.

We are expanding this thinking to the public realm.

Melbourne’s central business district is up to 5 degrees warmer on a hot day than the outer suburbs. To mitigate the urban heat island effect, we are planting 30,000 trees over 10 years, doubling the number of trees in our central business district to create an urban forest canopy so we can cool our city by 4 degrees celsius.

We also invested in storm water harvest tanks, and we have now secured 25 percent of our landscape irrigation requirements from stormwater.

My final example appears to be a small thing, but it is a significant intervention. Recently, at a very modest cost – some AUD$2 million – we converted under-utilised roadway to parkland. We added it to a very small existing park (529 square meters) to make a substantial park (4900 square metres). It is delivering social, environmental and health benefits for the local community and making our city more sustainable and liveable, as well as cooler in temperature.

The prediction for cities stands — that a competitive city, a sustainable city with high quality of life, will attract the best and brightest, equipped with the knowledge and skills to drive innovation and economic growth.

This is the first in a series of 10 posts highlighting the winners of the C40 & Siemens City Climate Leadership Awards.