How Australia Is Making Greener Cities: Part One

Last updated:
Nov 6, 2019
Commercial Real Estate


Matthew Pollak
Matthew Pollak

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Welcome to our Green Cities series. Part One outlines Sydney and Perth's efforts. Part Two will look into Melbourne and Brisbane.

Australia is looking to commit to sustainability by building greener cities.

Australia is one of the most carbon-intensive economies, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This is ultimately due to a combination of a heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity, emissions and waste issues. As a result, Australia is not on track to meet the 2030 emissions targets as set under the Paris agreement. Therefore, OECD’s major concern is that Australia does not have a national long-term vision for sustainable development- they have concluded that the status of Australia’s biodiversity is “poor and worsening”  and projected that emissions will increase by 2030.

Cities overall contribute 70% of the global carbon emissions. Hence, the Sustainable Cities Index by Acadis is a key tool, ranking 100 global cities according to the three pillars of sustainability: People, Planet and Profit.  In short, all Australian cities perform relatively poorly in the Planet pillar, resulting in no Australian city being ranked within the top 30 globally.


sydney, opera house, ocean, harbour

Sydney was Australia's most sustainable city in 2018. The city is working towards the extensive goals outlined in the Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan.

The plan is targeting six areas of impact:

1. Low-carbon city

Sydney aims to have a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. They have currently achieved a 25% (target 26%) reduction in emissions by mid 2016 through actions such as:

  • Retrofilling 45 of our major buildings with energy saving measures
  • Replacing 6,604 City of Sydney street and park lights with energy efficient LED lights - reducing their emissions by 40%.

Thus, the city's June 2021 targets include:

  • 44% reduction greenhouse gas emissions
  • 50% of electricity from renewable sources

2. Water Sensitive City

Sydney is aiming for a zero increase in potable water use by 2030. This has been achieved in the past, however recent years have seen a slight rise above the 2006  baseline level. Hence, the city is implementing various initiatives to achieve the target again. For instance, the Smart Green Business program has led to 620 businesses collectively saving over 1 gigalitre of drinking water.

3. Climate Resilience

Sydney has planted 11,000 new street trees since 2005.

4. Zero waste city

Sydney's annual resource recovery levels are currently below the 54% target for December 2016. The city is thus instilling various practices to achieve it. For example, businesses have proposed organization wide reviews and waste audits to improve waste management practices, and 69 per cent of residential waste in local areas has been diverted from landfill by reprocessing recyclables and composting food and garden waste.

5. An Active and Connected city

Furthermore, the City of Sydney has achieved an exceptional zero increase in fleet emissions in FY15/16 through initiatives including:

  • The inclusion of electric vehicles in the City of Sydney fleet.
  • Eco-driver training for City of Sydney staff.
  • Staff travel policies that prioritize and promote active transport (walking and cycling) and public transport.

6. A Green and Cool City

Finally, Sydney aims to have the average total canopy increased by 50% by 2030 and to plant 700 new street trees per year until 2021. The city is already making moves towards this by:

  • Planting 11,000 new street trees since 2005
  • Upgrading 57 small parks and installed 154 rain gardens since 2009
  • Supporting 19 community gardens, five Landcare groups and the launching of a Green Roofs and Walls policy.


perth, australia

Commercial buildings account for 51% of the emissions in the City of Perth local government area. Hence, the CitySwitch Green Office program targets office-based businesses and is most certainly a key initiative designed to facilitate the reduction of emissions in commercial buildings. Above all, the free voluntary program provides education, resources and support to meet objectives including:

  • Increased adoption of renewable energy
  • Reduced office waste and improved recycling practices

This has resulted in mass success with a 17 000 tonne emission reduction between 2008 and 2013.

How we can help

Thinking of committing to sustainability in your business? How about leasing a smart building to help your business become sustainable?

Tenant CS is a commercial tenant advisory service that caters to companies across Australia (with a particular focus on Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra), Singapore and the greater Asia-Pacific region. Contact our team today for assistance with your next office relocation!

Want to learn more first? Click here to read our Tips for a More Sustainable Office!

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