Media releases

Three steps for cities to tackle climate change

Published 4 December 2016

It would take just three steps to tackle dangerous global warming in our cities, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said at the C40 Cities Mayors Summit in Mexico City.

“It might seem simple, but by following these three simple steps we’ve been able to deliver serious climate action in our own operations, across our area and increasingly well outside our jurisdiction,” the Lord Mayor said.

The three steps to tackling climate change in our cities: Start planning for the long term, become the change you want to see, and never let up the pressure on every level of government and mobilise the voices of your communities to demand change.

The City of Sydney’s long term Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan is the cornerstone of everything the City does, setting out ambitious energy, waste and water targets, as well as articulating regulatory barriers outside its jurisdiction.

Since putting the plan into action, the City has driven greenhouse emissions down by 27 per cent in its own operations and city-wide by 19 per cent (on 2006 levels), at a time when the local economy has expanded by 37 per cent. It has also won breakthroughs on key regulatory blockages to water reuse, energy efficiency in apartments and the roll out of energy saving lights.

“There’s no point sitting on the sidelines and waiting for other levels of government to step up. You need to be in the thick of it, setting long term targets and taking practical action to make them happen. Our experience is that when you take the lead, others follow,” the Lord Mayor said.

“It won’t happen immediately – but by developing high quality research that identifies critical regulatory blockages and the change we need, building diverse coalitions and then together lobbying governments and regulators, we’ve had significant breakthroughs.

Milestones in the past year include:

  • Developed Environment Strategy 2016-2021, including a tougher target of net zero emissions by 2050 and 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 (by 2021 in our own operations)
  • Successfully campaigned for the development of an environmental rating tool for apartment buildings (regulated by the National Australian Built Environment Ratings Tool body)
  • Introduced a new green leasing standard for commercial buildings through the City’s Better Buildings Partnership
  • State Government climate strategy released that matches our targets for net zero emissions by 2050, with an energy efficiency strategy that includes programs we have long advocated for residential and commercial buildings
  • Energy utility Ausgrid commits to replacing pedestrian lights with LEDs as they fail (typically within 3-4 years) based on City’s evidence of power and maintenance cost savings
  • Recruited 20 buildings for Smart Green Apartments program to improve energy, waste and water efficiency and provide participants with online energy and water data portal
  • Switched on trigeneration plant powering Town Hall and Town Hall House
  • Successfully campaigned for changes to discriminatory water pricing regulations that will now allow third-party water recyclers on the market.
The research shows that by 2070 Sydney could be up to three degrees hotter with more extreme weather such as heatwaves, storms and flooding.

“We’ve received warning after warning from scientists and seen for ourselves the increasingly wild weather,” the Lord Mayor said.

“In the absence of national action we’ve knuckled down to the job ourselves – and if we can do it in Australia, it can be done anywhere. Australia is the largest exporter of coal in the world and until recently our state sourced more than 90 per cent of its electricity from coal-fired power.”

“Despite being at the third level of government, the City of Sydney has been a leader on climate change action and pushed for changes that have taken effect across Australia.”

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore in Mexico City, please contact Matt Levinson on 0499 319 385 or

For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Advisor Alex Cauchi on 0467 803 815 or