Australians have one of the highest ecological footprints in the world and Victorians the largest in Australia. Town planners, architects and policy makers need to meet the challenge of making our cities liveable and sustainable. Climate change is the major looming challenge facing not just Australia but the world. Reducing our emissions and adapting to climate change will require deep structural adjustment to the economy and our infrastructure and soon – within ten years.
This will have major impacts on urban design – the way we travel, the way we use and source energy, water and food. A vision for a sustainable future would be to have a solar hot water heater and photovoltaics on every roof, houses built to a 10 star energy rating with no need of heating and cooling.
We need an economy geared to sustainability, where your insurer, electricity retailer and bank would provide you with discounts on a cleaner car or making your home or business more energy efficient.
The tax system would reward employees who take public transport at least as generously as those who drive a gas guzzler to the office. The building industry must be a major player in achieving a sustainable future.
There is a lack of Federal government leadership in this area. In 2005 the House of Representatives report Sustainable Cities was tabled but none of the recommendations has been implemented. Unfortunately urban planning is almost entirely left to Local and State government. While we have seen leadership from these levels of government, a lot of barriers would be overcome through improved integration and co-operation between all levels of government if funding was pooled and there were agreed objectives around liveability and sustainability. Big challenges for our major cities are around transport and water infrastructure.
The Commonwealth government needs to set targets and policies at least around the energy and water intensity of our cities. This would include regulations and development of tools to assess the energy performance of our buildings, appliances, transport options and access. We need increased research and development on such topics as climate change impacts, mitigation and adaptation but also need rebates and ‘package deals’ to encourage retrofitting for energy and water saving technologies.
There has already been a shift in thinking and we will start to see change coming through as a response to consumer demand but consumers and people in the building industry will also need much more information, training and education on what it is to be sustainable.