The Glasgow Climate Change Summit, and World Cities Day on October 31, was a timely reminder to us all that the risks facing Australian cities need to be closely examined and better managed.
This year’s theme for the day, Adapting Cities for Climate Resilience, highlighted the threats from climate change, including extreme weather events, severe heat episodes and rising sea levels.
Sea level rise, storm surges and tidal floods pose very real dangers for Australia’s coastal cities.
Natural barriers such as mangroves and artificial barriers such as sea walls can resist the encroachment. Higher building standards can also help buildings withstand nature’s assaults.
World Cities Day reminds us that adaptability is at the heart of urban resilience. Green infrastructure, green spaces, ecosystem services and resource efficiencies are vital to sustainability, and urban planners and urban designers are devising innovative solutions to enable cities to thrive.
Urgency is rising now that Australia’s biggest cities are home to more than 10 million people, with around 5 million people in Sydney and Melbourne each.
Our cities are expanding and while the pandemic has slowed population growth, we can expect a pick-up next year when travel restrictions lift, making more urgent the need to make Australian cities more sustainable.
Australia has among the biggest homes in the world, which is definitely not helping with our sustainability problems, even more so because the lots are becoming smaller, leaving less room for trees—we have increased hard surfaces and decreased green ones.
In this sense it was great news from the federal government with its promises to cut emissions to reach net zero by 2050 under new climate change plan.
It conforms to the Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan which aims to transform the city to be green, global and connected.
In 2021, World Cities Day aimed to increase awareness of climate change adaptation and urban resilience, to inspire climate action at the local level by sharing knowledge about effective resilience solutions for urban systems, and to contribute to the sustainable development goals by supporting the New Urban Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Agreement for Climate Change.
People are at the heart of transport planning. Melbourne is creating a connected bicycle network and developing a “walking economy” through its 2030 Transport Strategy.
Sydney’s walking and cycling program is delivering numerous projects that encourage more of both.
We need a concerted effort in Australia by politicians, urban planners and designers to make our cities as sustainable as possible.
This calls for an innovative approach to city planning, comprehensive collaboration approaches and trans-disciplinary thinking.
And we must ensure that we equip the future planners and leaders in order to co-create spatial solutions for the complex urban environment.
Gabriela Quintana Vigiola,
Course director, University of Technology Sydney Online Master of Urban Planning and Master of Urban Design
Professor, head of School of Built Environment at the University of Technology Sydney