Climate change, planning, and zero carbon strategies unveiled

Image shows the ACT Legislative Assembly building and statue outside

With the Australian Capital Territory set to be powered by 100 percent renewables by 2020, the ACT Government has released a new Climate Change strategy that includes efficient buildings, reducing waste generation, and incorporating climate resilience into development applications and planning policies.

The Climate Change strategy complements the government’s 2018 strategies for planning, housing, and transport – all of which are designed to make Canberra a net zero emission city of almost 500,000 people.

“Despite the tedious inaction and political posturing at the Federal level on renewable energy investment, the ACT Government has demonstrated what is possible with smart planning and investments in sustainable energy sources,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

“Reaching our 100 percent renewable energy target is a significant moment, but more needs to be done and I can guarantee to Canberrans that this Government will continue to invest more to protect our natural environment and reduce our reliance on non-renewable energy sources.”

Challenges facing Canberra include more heatwaves and urban heat, drought, storms and bush fires, as well as an ageing urban forest.

A new Living Infrastructure Plan: Cooling the City includes incorporating climate change adaptation considerations and resilience into urban planning and design processes.

“One of the key commitments in the Plan is to a new ‘tree canopy target’,” said ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Shane Rattenbury.

“By 2045, we aim to have 30 percent of Canberra’s urban environment covered by a tree canopy or a tree canopy equivalent such as green roofs, shrub beds, wetlands and rain gardens.”

Today, Canberra’s urban tree canopy is about 21 percent, he said.

Development Applications

Starting in 2020, the ACT Government will “require multi-dwelling, mixed use and commercial development applications (DA) to have landscape plans that demonstrate how surface treatments and tree canopy cover targets will be met and change the processes for certification of DA compliance accordingly.”

The living infrastructure plan also features cooling initiatives to combat the urban heat island effect in priority areas, supporting active travel, and putting shading and water points on trunk cycle and pedestrian routes.

The ACT is also considering introducing e-scooters as part of the territory’s transport mix, and plans to have legislation in place around December 2019.

These efforts come as more local governments in England unveiled zero carbon targets.

The Humberside is the United Kingdom’s most carbon-intensive industrial region, but wants to become England’s first net zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040, support the wider region’s energy transition, and avoid carbon taxes.

Energy companies and trade groups are leading that campaign, and plan to use carbon capture, usage and storage technology as well as hydrogen as a fuel to power the wider Yorkshire region.

Meanwhile, the southwestern city of Bristol – population 463,000 – aims to become the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2030, and ensure its energy transition strategy includes and assists people from low socio-economic groups.

Its City Leap project is a partnership with entities including the University of Bristol and Bristol Energy, the latter which will create community heat networks and energy innovation in social housing.

Image: ACT Legislative Assembly