Syd­ney

Element - - Clean Technology -

Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lous city is get­ting se­ri­ous about cli­mate change. Re­cent re­search has shown that by 2050 global warm­ing, com­bined with Syd­ney’s ur­ban ‘heat is­land’ ef­fect where large build­ings and pave­ments hold more heat than nat­u­ral land­scapes, could in­crease tem­per­a­tures by up to 3.7°C. This has trig­gered con­cerns about heat-re­lated health prob­lems, as well as the en­ergy and eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of in­creased use of air conditioning. In Jan­uary Syd­ney ex­pe­ri­enced its hottest day on record, with tem­per­a­tures reach­ing nearly 46C.

New South Wales’ Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change pre­dicts rain­fall in­creases across the re­gion of be­tween 20-50 per cent by 2050, as well as in­creased ero­sion and flood­ing in coastal ar­eas caused by sea level rises and in­creased fire risks. Wa­ter au­thor­i­ties are also pre­par­ing for se­vere droughts. A 2011 re­port by Aus­tralia’s national science agency pre­dicts a de­cline in south­ern and eastern Aus­tralia’s wa­ter sup­ply, fail­ure of some ur­ban drainage and sew­er­age sys­tems, more black­outs, trans­port dis­rup­tion, greater build­ing dam­age, and an in­crease in heat-re­lated deaths, in­fec­tious dis­eases and air pol­lu­tion.

In re­sponse, Syd­ney has made a green­house gas emis­sion re­duc­tion pledge that far ex­ceeds any­thing we are see­ing in New Zealand: a cut of 70 per cent by 2030 on 2006 lev­els. The Coun­cil’s own op­er­a­tions have been cer­ti­fied car­bon neu­tral since 2008, it was the first Aus­tralian city to in­stall en­ergy-ef­fi­cient LED street and park lights which use 35 per cent less en­ergy to run, and has the largest build­ing-mounted elec­tric­ity-gen­er­at­ing pho­to­voltaic so­lar net­work in Aus­tralia. A AUS$6.9 mil­lion retrofit of 45 properties owned by the au­thor­ity has achieved 20 per cent re­duc­tion in en­ergy and wa­ter use, and saved $1 mil­lion on bills. It also leads a range of ini­tia­tives to sup­port and pro­mote sus­tain­able build­ing.

Next up there are plans to de­sign a ‘tri­gen­er­a­tion’ sys­tem us­ing nat­u­ral or waste gases from garbage, sewage plants, land­fill sites, live­stock, agri­cul­ture and forestry waste to pro­duce low-car­bon elec­tric­ity, heat­ing and air-conditioning. This will sup­ply Syd­ney Town Hall, Town Hall House, the Queen Vic­to­ria Build­ing and other nearby build­ings. It is hoped that sim­i­lar projects can be ex­tended to other ar­eas in the city. The city’s Re­new­able En­ergy Mas­ter Plan even goes so far as to sug­gest that all of the city’s elec­tric­ity, heat­ing and cool­ing can come from re­new­able en­ergy sources, such as so­lar, wind and en­ergy from waste, by 2030.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has said: “With tem­per­a­ture records here and around the world be­ing bro­ken ever more fre­quently, it is vi­tal that we stop in­creas­ing the lev­els of car­bon in the at­mos­phere that are caus­ing cli­mate change.”

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