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Sydney makes massive changes for the climate and inspires us to get creative and commit to climate love here in Aotearoa

Submitted by on March 10, 2016 – 4:00 am
Newtown, Sydney. 16th February 2016. Eleanor Ryan received a free tree last year as part of the City of Sydney's Free Tree Giveaway initiative. Eleanor meditates and does yoga next to the tree, finding it benificial for her wellbeing.

Newtown, Sydney. 16th February 2016. Eleanor Ryan received a free tree last year as part of the City of Sydney’s Free Tree Giveaway initiative. Eleanor meditates and does yoga next to the tree, finding it benificial for her wellbeing.

By Charlotte Squire

The City of Sydney has gone gloriously green. I’m talking bright green, think fluro. They’re investing hundreds of millions in their mission to cut greenhouse gas emissions in their local government area by 70% by 2030, compared to 2006 levels. I think they have a lot to offer New Zealand in terms of showing what’s possible for aspiring climate friendly communities.


I want to share a handful of the solutions that the City of Sydney are working with to lesson climate change problems in their communities.


I’m starting with tree love. Meet Sydney resident Eleanor Ryan. We’ll pop into her inner city garden and sit with her as she meditates next to her beloved Maple tree, one of 1,000 trees recently given away.


A local Reiki practitioner and massage therapist, Eleanor said her tree takes pride of place in her tranquil garden, a secluded spot in the heart of the inner west.

“The City’s free giveaway is great – there’s something very special about nurturing your own tree and watching it grow. There’s nothing I love more than having a potter around my garden – and then I’ll just sit quietly next to my tree and breathe,” Ms Ryan said.

“The chaos of inner city life can become overwhelming and it’s important to have your own little sanctuary away from it all.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who is, I feel compelled to tell you: female, said the popular program had been running since 2014, encouraging everyone to green their communities.

“The City already has over 31,000 street trees and 12,000 park trees to improve air quality, provide habitat for birds and wildlife and beautify our city,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We’d like to see this number grow even further, and that’s why we’re giving our residents another 1,000 free trees to help green our city.

“Trees can also help promote health and well-being by encouraging relaxation and improving moods. We hope our community will enjoy planting and caring for their trees while helping us create a greener, healthier and more liveable Sydney.”

Think that’s inspiring? There’s much more. Sydney have recycled 419 tonnes of e-waste through their free quarterly e-waste drop off events. That’s the equivalent weight of two jumbo jets.


Last year they adopted a plan to save businesses and residents 31% of their energy usage, a plan that will cost the council $400 million, but save them $600 million by 2030.

“By retrofitting swimming pools, community centres and libraries for optimum energy efficiency, we have reduced greenhouse gas emissions across the City’s buildings by 29 per cent. We now want to see these savings expanded across the entire city,” said the Lord Mayor.


They’ve also reduced their council fleet emissions by 26% by investing in zero emission cars, hybrid vehicles and driver training. They’ve invested hugely in solar, saving 87 tonnes of emissions per year. They’ve switched to LED lights, so far replacing 6450 bulbs, which has saved nearly $800,000 in power and maintenance per year.


The most popular climate change actions from the community include –

trees and plants for shade, cooling and shelter (92%), open space and

infrastructure for changing rainfall (88%), buildings, streets and open space to withstand extreme heat (87%), and factoring climate change into all future City decisions (86%).


Council say the biggest challenge is moving fast enough to cut carbon emissions, with average temperatures already jumping 0.9C.


So how about New Zealand, how are we doing? The more I look, the more I find.


Last year dozens of councils signed the Local Government Leaders Climate Change Declaration just before the Paris negotiations. LGNZ President Lawrence Yule said councils were keenly aware of the challenges they face due to the impacts of climate change – including rising sea levels. The declaration is a collective recognition led by mayors of the larger cities of the need for urgent action to address climate change for the benefit of future generations.


Christchurch have a Build Back Smarter strategy to support home owners with more efficient, healthy homes. They’re also investing heavily in cycleways, local food production, tree establishment and more. Wellington are embracing energy efficiency, including offering businesses free access to energy management software and support for audits and retrofits. Auckland is seeking to reduce carbon emissions through projects such as the City Rail Link. Climate friendly changes are happening nationwide.


If you’d like to see your community go fluro, climate friendly green like Sydney, now’s the time to speak up. Each of us have something unique to offer for the climate and it can be profoundly enjoyable to make a difference.

Charlotte Squire is the founder of Happyzine.co.nz – New Zealand’s solutions focused, positive news website.  

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