Sustainability is a planetary concern, but not all countries and cities are moving at the same pace to achieve it. What experience has taught us is that the only way to reduce our environmental impact is to break this main goal down into smaller, more realistic objectives and then act methodically towards each one. This is evident if we look at virtuous examples such as the city of Sydney, Australia, which was declared the most sustainable city on the continent in 2018 and is committed to a programme of further pollution and emissions reduction by 2030. How have the current objectives been achieved and what strategies are currently being implemented to continue to make Sydney an example of sustainability?
Sydney’s 2030 sustainability goals
The city of Sydney has developed a programme based on three key concepts, to be implemented over the next decade. The keywords are “Green”, “Global” and “Connected”. The aim is to completely transform the city’s average lifestyle, influencing every aspect of the population’s activities, from work to private life, in order to create a real sustainable revolution, while growing the local economy and promoting local culture.
Incentives for “green” businesses and sustainable infrastructure
Companies were the first to be involved in the city’s sustainable policies. In order to combine economic growth and environmental protection, it is essential to encourage sustainable industries, turning the city into a desirable destination for all entrepreneurs who choose to adopt eco-friendly practices. Of course, it is not possible to delegate the whole responsibility of creating a “green” city to private enterprise: the municipality (or, on a larger scale, the state) must also do its part, creating infrastructures that comply with the same sustainability guidelines. This starts, of course, with water and energy supplies, and goes on to include waste management, recycling, energy optimisation of public buildings, the implementation of non-fossil fuel-based public transport, and, finally, the creation of green spaces available to the local communities. All these projects have been underway in Sydney for several years now and many more are planned for the near future.
A “green-positive” culture: how does a “globalised” city protect the environment?
Australia has quite controversial immigration policies, but Sydney is keen to maintain its international vocation, especially by funding a vibrant cultural scene that attracts tourists from all over the world. Facilities such as the Sydney Opera House – which is a symbol of national identity – represent what the city sees as its multicultural vocation. The aim is to attract and retain talent from the cultural industry to maintain a creative environment and a lively arts scene. It is in fact demonstrated that culture and respect for the environment often go hand-in-hand and that a healthy cultural scene is often associated with an environmentally aware population.
Connected cities reduce emissions
Transport is an essential component of urban sustainability. The city of Sydney is committed to making the centre easily accessible on foot or by bicycle, but also to ensuring that the various urban units into which the city is divided are organised as independently as possible so as to reduce the need for long journeys. In order to achieve this goal, it is not enough to encourage the correct relocation of schools and hospitals: it is also necessary to guarantee the presence of affordable housing and promote the cultural life of all districts.
100% sustainable energy
Last but not least is the issue of energy, which in Sydney is entirely renewable as it comes from the wind and solar parks in the New South Wales region. This has reduced CO2 emissions across the region by around 20,000 tonnes per year, saving around €308,000 over the next decade.