Media Release
Committee sets eight priorities for a net zero Sydney
02 September, 2021

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Matt Levinson

Sydney’s peak advocacy and urban policy think tank, the Committee for Sydney, has identified eight priority action areas for Sydney to take now to reach net zero by 2050.

Sam Kernaghan, the Committee’s Resilience Director, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report (August 2021) had put an intense focus on what a warming world would look like, and the need to accelerate climate action.

“We still have time, but not much,” he said.

“We can’t wait until 2050. We need to set ambitious and optimistic goals for 2030 – goals that show leadership and set the direction.

“These actions will help Sydney play its part in combating climate change, but they’ll also provide benefits to our communities, economy and environment – from improved air quality to lower household bills and more resilient energy grids that are better able to cope with the extremes of weather we can expect to face in coming years.

“The opportunity to show creativity, leadership and action, from big infrastructure down to the household scale, is the challenge ahead of us.”

The Committee for Sydney’s eight priorities for a net zero Sydney:

  1. Use purchasing power agreements to invest in as much renewable energy as possible, and support those investments with pumped hydro and batteries to provide storage and grid stability
  2. Electrify everything in our homes and workplaces – enabling every single electrical device to become cleaner and cheaper to run as we decarbonise the energy supply
  3. Rapidly accelerate the transition to electric vehicles – passenger, utility, commercial – removing noise and air pollution from our neighbourhoods and creating mobile batteries to support the grid
  4. Shift commuter and local trips from cars to active transport – cycling, e-biking and walking can deliver emission reductions today by reducing some vehicles trips.
  5. Democratise decentralised energy – make solar panels, and household and community batteries accessible to all households, lowering energy bills and strengthening local grids
  6. Decarbonise construction – drive innovation in materials, design and construction processes to reduce the carbon and energy intensity of the houses, buildings and infrastructure we construct
  7. Refocus on waste, reducing the 14 per cent of emissions that come from landfill by diverting organics, increase our carbon efficiency by designing out waste, and recovering some of the embodied energy through energy from waste technologies
  8. Act now to remove carbon from the atmosphere – biodiversity and agriculture are some of the opportunities across Sydney and NSW to benefit from the carbon offsets needed to keep Sydney within its carbon budget.

Since joining the Committee for Sydney in early 2021, Kernaghan’s focus has been mapping the path to halving Sydney’s emissions by 2030 – by understanding the research, evidence and actions underway, meeting decision makers across key business, government and research sectors, and mapping necessary actions from here.

Kernaghan has been at the forefront of the urban resilience agenda for the past 15 years, including working with New York State after Hurricane Sandy, with the Asian Development Bank to design an Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund, and with global design consultancy Arup where he was the first Australasian resilience practice leader.

Between 2016 and 2020, he worked with Chief Resilience Officers across Australia, New Zealand and across Asia to develop and implement comprehensive city resilience strategies as part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Network. As Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Kernaghan led partnership development to connect city projects to funding, finance and technical expertise, and created a global knowledge exchange platform to enhance practice sharing and program delivery in cities across the world.