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Australia is one of the world’s highest emitters of carbon dioxide per capita. More than ever, cities around Australia are taking significant strides to reduce emissions and create a sustainable economy. Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, including action against global warming. You can take action for the environment here.

Four Australian cities have received an ‘A’ grade for their efforts to tackle climate change.

Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, and Canberra were among 43 cities — out of a list of almost 600 around the world — to be applauded for their dedication to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate-related risks.

The ‘A’ score was issued by environmental non-profit CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), which awards an ‘A’ to ‘D’ grade based on how successfully a city manages and tracks its emissions and its ability to plan for extreme climate events, like sea-level rise, fire, and drought.

"Just 7% of cities who reported to CDP in 2018 received an ‘A’,” Global Director for Cities, States, and Regions Kyra Appleby stated in the report. “We urge cities worldwide to step up their action, set targets in line with what the latest science says is needed to prevent dangerous climate change, and transparently share their progress.”

Canberra was among one of five — including Minneapolis, Reychivek, Paris, and San Francisco — to have policies in place to achieve 100% renewable energy in the near future. Melbourne and Sydney were also highlighted for implementing policies to reach net zero emissions by 2020 and 2050, respectively.

Melbourne is already working to build water resilience systems and reduce the amount of energy used to cool the city’s buildings. Similarly, Sydney has already planted an additional 10,250 trees since 2005, which work to absorb pollution and reduce heat in the summer.

"We continue to be frustrated by the lack of political leadership at a global and national level needed to reduce greenhouse emissions,” a 2016 – 2021 climate action plan by the City of Sydney announced. “So we must plan to make the City of Sydney resilient to a changing climate.”

Climate experts have long claimed current action plans by federal governments will fail to limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius as recommended in the Paris climate accord. For Appleby, this means the need for cities to step up and work on reducing emissions “is more urgent than ever.”

"To get onto a 1.5 degree pathway, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the world needs to reduce emissions by half by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century,” Appleby told Global Citizen. “Cities are key to achieving this, as urban areas represent an estimated 70% of energy-related global emissions.”

A new report by the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and C40 Cities revealed six areas where city, state, and regional governments can work to help limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees.

These include energy systems, buildings, transport and urban planning, green infrastructure, sustainable land use, and water management.

Action in these areas also bring significant co-benefits. For example, retrofitting buildings to be energy efficient provides positive mitigation impacts while additional tree planting removes pollution, which, subsequently, sees improvements to public health.

As the impacts of climate change continue to be witnessed worldwide, Appleby is confident more cities will intensify efforts.

"We have seen an increase in city climate action since the Paris agreement, and we expect to see this progress continue. CDP data shows a 90% jump in cities with emission reduction plans since 2015,” she stated. “We hope and expect to see city climate action increase and for more cities to score an A in our methodology in future years, as climate change and water security rise up the agenda.”


Defend the Planet

4 Australian Cities Singled Out For Leading on Environmental Action

By Madeleine Keck