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City Hub

August 3, 2008

City News

August 7, 2008


Bruce Taper, advisor in the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy

This former apprentice electrician has come a long way, having now wholly devoted his life to tackling climate change.

Bruce Taper’s company Kinesis recently completed work for the City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan.

Prior to establishing Kinesis, Taper was sustainability director at the NSW Department of Planning, where his work won the Planning Institute of Australia’s national award for urban planning excellence. Before that, he worked as a sustainability practitioner in local government, establishing Kogarah Council’s reputation as a leader in urban renewal.

Planning controls and redevelopment of the Kogarah Town Square received international recognition for its integration of greenhouse gas reductions and water cycle management. The project, which “replaced a grubby car park” and incorporated sustainable design principles within the medium to high density residential development, is one that Taper is still proud of. 

Taper says the “urban millennium” has arrived and with Australia one of the most urbanised countries in the world, he believes Sydney can lead the way in combating climate change. He points to UN data showing that last year, the majority of people were living in towns and cities. “By 2050 it is estimated that more than 6 billion people, two-thirds of humanity, will be urban dwellers,” he says.

“Historically large cities have been seen as dirty, environmentally unfriendly and inefficient. However, given strong regulation of waste, air and water quality since World War II, their density of infrastructure, and concentration of people, cities also have the potential, not only to be extremely efficient, but to become places where we can demonstrate new, more sustainable ways of living and working.”

Putting it more bluntly, with an estimated 75 per cent of the world’s energy used in urban areas, and with responsibility for about 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, “if we are going to achieve the significant emissions reductions that climate scientists tell us are required… then much of the change in infrastructure, decisions and behaviour will have to happen in our cities.”

For inner-city residents and businesses, Taper says it is certainly possible to make a difference and recommends taking action through a three-step process. The first, he says, is the most unfashionable but most effective: “Ask yourself what you can do without, that doesn’t restrict your lifestyle. Can you drive less? Do you have a big fridge? Three TVs? Air-conditioning?” The second involves being more efficient in behaviour and technology choices. The third is using green fuel, with the easiest change possible a switch from electricity to natural gas.

The magic number three comes up again in core insights Taper says he has gained about how cities can help achieve measurable and verifiable emissions reductions, in the case of Sydney close to 60 per cent in the next 20 years. 

First, we must be “fiercely pragmatic” about how we achieve reductions. Second, it is important to do solid work on the options available that will achieve measurable emissions reduction, before being too bold about our ambitions. Third, energy efficiency can only ever achieve so much.

“In Sydney our work showed that reductions could be achieved most effectively by bringing power generation to the city. Through the use of new ‘green transformers’, initially driven by natural gas with the potential to use waste and biomass in the future, the waste heat from energy generation can be used to achieve the heating and cooling required by offices and homes.”

“As the city grows and more offices, institutions and homes are built, the level of emissions will rise to a level that far outweighs what might be achieved through efficiency alone. Supply-side solutions that can be developed at city scale are also required. Green transformers provide the city with reduced emissions, increased energy and the infrastructure to transition to a hydrogen economy or other zero emissions fuels that will be needed beyond 2030”.