Spotlight on Sydney: city’s climate leadership recognized as new initiatives are launched

We’ve seen before that change often begins at the “grassroots” level. And so it is in Sydney, where, in an unprecedented community consultation seven years ago, citizens expressed a desire to tackle climate change, as well as a host of issues relating to the city’s long-term sustainability.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore recalls this community consensus as the starting point for Sustainable Sydney 2030, a vision and strategy for a “global, green and connected city” whose results have recently received both national and international recognition.

In its December 2011 report Climate Change, Employment and Local Development, Sydney, Australia the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) commended the city’s global leadership in creating green jobs and developing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of a greener economy.

On a national level, government agency Low Carbon Australia recently certified Sydney as the first carbon-neutral council in Australia. This achievement reflects the success of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the city’s carbon footprint while offsetting any remaining emissions, bringing the City’s net emissions to zero.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore had this to say about the certification:

“This national accreditation is the seal of approval for the City’s commitment to achieving real reductions in carbon emissions. We are on track to reach one of the most ambitious emissions reduction targets of any Australian government – 70 per cent by 2030 from 2006 levels.

“Australia’s per person emissions are the highest in the OECD and among the highest in the world. But Sydney is leading the way on reducing carbon pollution. We’re also attracting forward-looking businesses seeking to reduce their carbon pollution and potential liabilities under a carbon price. It is in our best interests to cut carbon pollution because we face potentially devastating climate changes, including more intense heatwaves, droughts, bushfires, cyclones and the spread south of tropical diseases.”

While offsetting emissions is an important tool to achieve carbon neutrality today, Sydney is pressing forward on a range of initiatives to tackle carbon pollution head-on. The City will cut emissions further with the rollout of energy efficient LED street lighting; a $12 million solar panel project; and the installation of 12 new electric car charging stations -- powered by 100% renewable energy -- to be installed across Sydney for the city’s own growing electric vehicle fleet, as well as for public use. In another groundbreaking project, the city is installing a low-carbon “trigeneration” energy network that runs on natural gas and is nearly three times more energy efficient than coal-fired power stations. Initially, the network of trigeneration systems will produce electricity to heat and cool clusters of council and privately-owned buildings in the first of four “low-carbon-zone” precincts in the City.