Greater Sydney has the potential to become a leader and innovator in environmental technology and management of energy, water and waste, building on a range of programs and initiatives that promote energy and water efficiency in buildings, the generation and storage of renewable energy and precinct-based approaches to the sustainable use of resources.
Greater Sydney, the nation’s largest city, has an important role in Australia’s response to climate change. The communities within Greater Sydney, with their differing characteristics, require targeted responses to mitigate climate change, focusing on the design of neighbourhoods and managing land use, infrastructure and transport. This could include using renewable energy, reducing consumption of energy and water and reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions, which would help to deliver a more efficient and sustainable city.
These responses can reduce costs for households and businesses, while contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.
A resilient region reduces its exposure and vulnerability to natural and urban hazards and is more able to withstand shocks and stresses. Planning for the region builds on the NSW Government’s support of the 100 Resilient Cities network of councils across Greater Sydney47.
Greater Sydney is exposed to natural hazards like flooding, bushfires, severe storms and heatwaves. Climate change will exacerbate many natural hazards and increase risks to the community. One of the most significant natural hazards in Greater Sydney is flooding in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley. The largest flood on record in this valley was in 1867, when the river level reached 19.7 metres in Windsor. If a flood of this size occurred in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley today, 12,000 residential properties would be impacted, 90,000 people would need evacuation and damages would cost an estimated $5 billion48.
Urban hazards such as air pollution, noise and soil contamination need to be managed to protect the region’s liveability and sustainability. Exposure to air pollution is influenced by natural air circulation patterns, leading to higher incidents of pollution in the north west and south west of Greater Sydney.
Many sustainability goals are incorporated into existing environmental laws, regulations and government policies and frameworks, including protection of waterways, coastlines and biodiversity, and provisions to reduce pollution and waste. However, these mostly single-issue approaches mean that balancing economic, social and environmental factors in decision-making is challenging. This Plan promotes integrated approaches to deliver sustainable outcomes.
One integrated approach is through planning and delivering green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is the network of green spaces, natural systems and semi-natural systems that support sustainable communities. It has connected elements: waterways; urban bushland; urban tree canopy and green ground cover; parks and open spaces (refer to Figure 46).
Greater Sydney’s Green Grid sets a long-term vision for a network of high quality green areas that will connect communities to green infrastructure. It will promote a healthier urban environment and improve access to spaces for recreation and exercise. Scenic and cultural landscapes and rural landscapes complement green infrastructure.