Resilient Sydney: Extreme heat our biggest risk

Resilient Sydney – a strategy document created by 33 Sydney metropolitan councils and the 100 Resilient Cities initiative – has stressed the importance of planning for climate change.

The strategy document was released this week with the aim of strengthening the city’s ability to survive, adapt and thrive in the face of increasing global uncertainty and local shocks and stresses. It calls for involvement from business, government, academia, communities and individuals.

Five key “directions” have been identified to make Sydney more resilient. Number two looks at how to live with a changing climate.

“We’re experiencing increasingly extreme weather events with every year classed as another record-breaking year in terms of rising temperatures,” says Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. “Resilient Sydney recognises no one organisation can solve our problems and instead looks at how we can work together, across boundaries to protect and champion the needs and interests of our communities.”

Sydney’s Chief Resilience Officer Beck Dawson – the keynote speaker at AIRAH’s Resilience Forum on Thursday, July 26 – says the strategy is the result of extensive consultation.

“We’ve spent two years talking to more than 1,000 people from 100 organisations to identify actions we can do together to help us bounce back from shocks and reduce their likelihood.”

The consultation process revealed strong and widespread concern about inaction in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to a changing climate. In response, Resilient Sydney has identified “Live with our climate” as the second key strategy.

Under this heading come seven supporting actions, including the flagship action: “Cool suburbs – turn down the heat”. This includes a Cool Suburbs initiative that will seek to use the latest in data sensing, materials science, built environment planning and performance monitoring to offer a Cool Score for new and existing suburbs.

The action also mentions the use of cool roofs, permeable or porous roads, driveways and footpaths, cool building and shading designs, irrigation and tree canopy cover.

The goal is to publish the Cool Suburbs strategy and action plan in the next three years, setting targets to reduce temperatures, improve canopy cover, reduce morbidity and mortality and monitor economic impacts of extreme heat.

“Extreme heat is our biggest risk,” the document states. “Vulnerable populations with an underlying illness are more likely to die in a heatwave. Heatwaves cause soaring demands for energy, water and health services. Our primary growth areas in Western Sydney are located inland in relatively hotter areas. But new homes are usually not constructed to provide maximum protection.”

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