Report backs Sydney’s action against extreme weather threat

The City of Sydney’s ambitious actions to slash emissions have been backed by a new report, confirming global warming is intensifying the impact of extreme weather events globally with Sydney at risk from heatwaves, droughts and sea level rise.

The report, Expect the Unexpected, by Munich Re, one of the world’s biggest reinsurance companies, shows Sydney faces almost a third more hailstorm days in the face of climate change.

The Munich Re report shows costs to Australia from natural catastrophes have almost quadrupled from 1980 to reach $6.3 billion a year. This figure is expected to soar to $23 billion by 2050 in real terms.

“Munich Re’s report shows the conditions for thunderstorms in Sydney will rise by nearly a third by the end of the century and the frequency of extreme droughts in Australia could increase by more than one and a half times,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“We’re already witnessing threats such as the fierce storms in April when heavy rainfall flooded parts of Sydney and NSW. As our climate changes, the hottest days will become hotter, more frequent and last longer, putting enormous strains on vital infrastructure, community health and air quality.”

“This new report confirms what the world’s top scientists have been saying – we have reached a critical decade for action on climate change.”

“In Sydney, we’re getting on with the job of protecting against these dangerous climate threats for our community. We have the most ambitious target of any Australian government – to cut emissions 70 per cent by 2030, on 2006 levels – and we’re well on track.”

The City’s sustainability achievements include:

  • Completing a major retrofit of 45 of the City’s major buildings. The retrofit has cut the City’s electricity use by about 6.6 million kilowatt hours (kWh) a year – enough to supply about 1000 households annually – and saved an estimated $1.1 million a year in power bills;
  • Installing solar photovoltaic (PV) on major buildings such as Redfern Oval Grandstand, Sydney Park pavilion and Paddington Town Hall. The panels are expected to reduce the City’s annual carbon pollution by around 2,073 tonnes, about five per cent of the City’s total electricity use;
  • Replacing 6,450 lights with LEDs across the City’s streets and parks, saving nearly $800,000 a year in electricity bills and maintenance a year and reducing carbon emissions by nearly 40 per cent;
  • Supporting the Better Buildings partnership members, including owners of more than half the city’s commercial property, to reduce their emissions by 113,000 tonnes, saving $30 million in the last year alone;
  • Recruiting nearly 600 new businesses to the Smart Green Business Program. This year members saved 15,000 tonnes carbon emissions;
  • Increasing businesses participating in the CitySwitch Green Office program, which covers nearly three million square metres office floor space across the city; and;
  • Installing the city’s largest stormwater harvesting system at Sydney Park. The $10.5 million project will captures and cleans up to around 850 million litres stormwater a year, providing a sustainable water supply for the parks’ future.

The City has a suite of green infrastructure master plans to achieve targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste and water. The City’s climate adaptation strategy is a landmark plan prepared with major science groups earlier this year to help deal with issues ranging from changing rainfall patterns and rising sea levels to more severe heat waves.

The City has signed its third Environmental Upgrade Agreement – an innovative funding agreement between a building owner, finance provider and council to unlock barriers to sustainability investments in buildings.

The City has also appointed Sydney’s first Chief Resilience Officer to help prepare the city for social, economic and climate challenges.