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Planning for cities and climate change in Australia: the risks, challenges and opportunities

Executive Summary

Climate change issue has grown phenomenally and is one of the public policy being addressed in Australia both at governmental, corporate and societal level. First, to frame the discussion, the paper outlines the discourse on poor city planning or inadequacies in city planning and their role in climate change.

Secondly, the expose asses the nexus between inadequacies and gaps in city planning to climate change in Australian context. In this regard, the paper examines urbanisation and role of urban activities in climate change.

Finally, the paper determines the risks, challenges and opportunities in planning for cities and climate change.

The article argues that climate change poses risks to urban dwellers in terms of destruction to infrastructure, utilities, livelihood, natural habitats/ ecology and human health as result of rising sea level, typhoons, excessive heat, flooding and unreliable rain patterns leading to droughts that impact of food prices & quantity of water delivered and so on.

Equally, the paper established that there are myriad of issues that present challenges in ensuring land use planning that addresses climate change. These include population pressure; consequentialism approaches in doing business that do not appreciate natural capitalism; overreliance on fossil fuel as the major source of energy and urban sprawl.

Finally, the paper proposes that there are opportunities to be exploited under city planning so as to curtail climate change trough reduction of energy use & emission, minimisation on encroachment of natural areas, adoption of closed loop system of energy flow as opposed to open one. These include green developments that aims at sustainability; urban consolidation & densification; reforestation; legislations on carbon pricing and investment in renewable energy in running built human settlements and associated industrial activities.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary i

1.0 Introduction 1

2.0 City Planning and Climate Change 2

2.1 City planning 2

2.2 Climate Change 2

2.3 Nexus between Poor City Planning/ City Activities and Climate Change 3

3.0 Australian context: Climate Change and City Development 6

4.0 The Risks, Challenges and Opportunities 8

4.1 Risks 8

4.2 Challenges 11

4.3 Opportunities 14

5.0 Conclusion 15

References 16

1.0 Introduction

The realisation that greenhouse gases have an integral role in climatic changes has pushed the agenda of limiting its emission to the top of public policy agenda in most countries including Australia (Residential Development Council, 2007, p.7). This has elicited a myriad of responses such as carbon pricing so as to punish the heavy polluters. However, there have been responses under the domain of planning cities so as to curtail climate change through measures such as urban consolidation & densification, leadership in energy & environmental design so as to reduce exposure by limiting extraction from natural environment & emission of wastes and enhance adaptive capacity of communities (Lankao, 2008, p.5). As such, this article discusses the risks, challenges and opportunities under the domain of planning for cities and climate change in Australia is an emerging field.

The paper is divided into three sections. The first section assesses city planning and climate change and the nexus between the two in a cause effect relationship paradigm. The section argues that urban areas are the highest contributor to climate change as a result of the fact they host various activities that exploit natural resources and emit wastes into environment. The second section narrows on Australian context and examines the nexus between inadequacies in urban planning and their role in climate change through greenhouse gas emission, pollution and clearance of vegetation cover. Finally, the paper outlines the risks, challenges and opportunities within the domain of city planning and climate change. The paper argues that risks are associated with the side effect of climate change such rise in sea level. The challenges relates to population growth & urbanism; non-adherence to natural capitalism and reliance in non-renewable energy. Finally, the paper argues that there are opportunities that can be enhanced through platform such as green development & legislations.

2.0 City Planning and Climate Change

2.1 City planning

The core premise for planning for cities is to ensure sustainable development that is liveable. In order to attain such aspirations, urban planning programmes and projects should create a balance between exploitation of natural resources within the built environment and the surrounding sphere of influence, conurbations and sprawls as well as taking care of economic development and social needs. In this regard, urban planning seeks to guarantee harmonious development in a holistic perspective that not only addresses the present needs, but also the future ones through innovative sustainable approaches (Ahmadi & Toghyani, 2011, p.23-24). The whole premise for such aspirations is anchored on natural capitalism theoretical framing that appreciates that human survival is premised on the realisation, that humanity has tended to account of other sources of capital without taking consideration of the fact that environment offers important ecological services that cannot be directly accounted yet integral for the whole universe. As such, taken from ecological perspective, city planning seeks to manage how humanity in pursuit of development extract, process, transport and dispose of vast flow of resources (Lovins, Lovins & Hawken, 1999, p.146).

2.2 Climate Change

Climate change literatures indicates that, owing to human numerous development activities in pursuit of modernity or in response to modernity challenges, humanity emit various substances that highly impacts on the self regeneration capacity and capability of the natural environment/ ecosystem and thus leading to deterioration of environmental quality and its ability to sustain itself, living things and associated processes. Such degradation is as result pollution through emission of harmful substances that leads to global warming and ultimately changes in climate and ozone layer depletion. Such processes are exhibited through alterations in temperatures; precipitation patterns, volume & duration, winds patterns & velocity and other climate variabilities (Mitchell, 2009, p.25).

The argument supporting existence of climate change is premised on the realisation that erratic climatic conditions are now being recorded global and it is projected to continue. The key culprit here is as a result of human activity in relation to energy consumption and destruction of green cover/ forests. The need for development is all aspect of human life like industries, home, transportation and farming is greatly contributing to atmospheric pollution in terms of carbon dioxide and other chemicals emission (Schneider, 1989. p. 2, 3 and 4). The climate change concept existence is supported by recently observed phenomenon like rise in sea levels. These are evident in the strong typhoons, hurricanes and see flooding that has now become a common occurrence. Just to name few of these, we have of late experienced huge typhoons like Katrina which killed and destroyed properties. The second is the flooding that numerous countries such Australia, America, and south East Asia. The floods are unpredictable while at the same time causing havoc on human life. The other noted effect is on changed rainfall pattern. The other noted concern is the thawing of glaciers at the top of mountains, melting of icebergs in polar and in deep sees (Houghton, 2004, 1-7).

2.3 Nexus between Poor City Planning/ City Activities and Climate Change

In pursuit for development endeavours and modernisation, human beings have embraced pure Keynesian economic approach that has total disregard of ecological principles (Lovins, Lovins & Hawken, 1999, p.146). Within this approach, utilitarian aspirations are the priming factors as deontological aspirations are relegated to back seat. The cornerstone survival tactics is premised on over exploitation, extraction and injection with minimal disregard to the emissions to environment yet various literatures shows that such approach by humanity is placing extreme threat to survival. For instance, there are cases of thawing of glaciers, rising of sea levels and frequent typhoons and tornadoes which are indication of climate change. The observation is that development of built environment and associated urban infrastructures is not well planned for or in a simplistic generic observation, has constituted to a great extent global warming activities.

Urban areas and spaces host myriad activities that emit various components that are significant in climate change. For instance, Dodman (2009, p.192) indicates that urban areas host industrial plants that emit carbon dioxide which constitute the most contributor top green house gases. The same can be said of the transport sector and energy sector. Apart from these, urban environment consumes a huge amount of land that supposedly would have been in its natural status thereby hosting trees that is critical in absorbing green house gases. Additionally, urban centres have massive ecological foot prints owing to the waste products it emits into the environment, the energy requirements and food needs for the population residing in these cities. In overall, Satterthwaite (2008, p.540) estimates that cities and other urban areas supply about 70-80% of green house gases.

Figure 1: Australia’s Sources of Emission

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Source: Carbon neutral, 2014

For instance, in a resort city that heavily relies on tourism to sustain it existence, but relies on fossil fuel energy to meet its energy needs is likely to experience higher carbon and other green house gas emissions. In return, the emitted gas is likely to lead to climate change – increased temperatures through global warming associated with green house gases or ozone layer depletion. The climate change is likely to impact on livelihoods and other ecological elements that directly or indirectly relies on it. For instance, reduced rainfall is likely to impact on vegetation cover which in turn leads to reduced carrying capacity and thus impacting on wildlife habitat and wildlife population which is a significant part of tourist attraction. As such the tourist industry is likely to diminish significantly or die all together and thus implying the death of that city.

Figure 2: Climate Change-Urbanisation Nexus

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Source: Lankao, 2008, p.14

3.0 Australian context: Climate Change and City Development

Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world with 64% of her population residing in the eight capital cities (Legacy, Glover & Low, 2007, p.7). Human settlements are critical in availing amenity and liveability to humanity. For instance, Australia’s urban areas and cities contributes to 40% of Australia’s asset based estimated to worth $3500 billion in 2001 as compared to Australia’s natural environment- land minerals, oil, gas & timber that only constitutes one third of national assets. However, despite of these positive contribution, human settlements directly creates pressure on the natural environment owing to the fact settlement activities draws resources such as energy & water; convert land for production & landscaping and emit wastes into the natural environment – land, air and water (Newton, 2006, p.1).

According to Carbon Neutral (2014) report, Australia contributed to 1.5% of global greenhouse gases. However, the pollution magnitude of Australia is placed in context if subjected to per capita calculation that stood at 24.4 tonnes in June 2012 thus, making the country one of the highest polluters in OECD category as this ranks twice as the second placed OECD country. In overall, the highest contributors to greenhouse gas emission are electricity at 36%; direct fuel combustion & agriculture at 15%; transport at 14%; fugitives at 7% and finally, lastly, deforestation & forestry and industrial processes at 5% respectively.

Australian cities and urban areas are the greatest contributors to climate change owing to the rationale that they concentrate populations and economic activities yet it is these that emit wastes such as greenhouse gases that impact on climate (Lankao, 2008, p.9). Residential Development Council (2007, p.10) in analysing the five capital cities with population of one million and above established that the highest quantity or volume of greenhouse gases are emitted at the core of the city. He found that the core of the five cities churn out 27.87 tonnes per capita annually of greenhouse gases. This is followed by inner ring areas that emit 21.11 tonnes of green house gases per capita annually. Additionally, the second ring churns out 18.82 tonnes per capita annually while the outer areas average emits 17.46% tonnes of greenhouse gas per capita annually.

In a broken down presentation, Residential Development Council (2007, p.11) established the inner core of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth emit 30.05, 28.03, 26.51, 22.48 & 24.07 tonnes per capita annually respectively. The inner ring of the five cities emits 21.78, 21.18, 22.81, 18.12 and 20.10 tonnes per capita annually respectively. The second ring emits 19.76, 19.37, 19.11, 16.68 & 17.08 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capita annually. Finally, the outer ring contributes 20.74, 20.37, 1954, 17.59 & 18.38 tonnes of greenhouse gases per capita annually respectively. If these figures are averaged, the annual per capita greenhouse gases emission in Sydney is 20.74; in Melbourne 20.37; in Brisbane 19.54; in Adelaide 17.59 and in Perth 18.38.

Figure 3: GHG Emissions by Proximity to Core Analysis Zones in Capital Cities Over 1,000,000

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Source: Residential Development Council, 2007, p.11

4.0 The Risks, Challenges and Opportunities

4.1 Risks

Maslin (2009, p.9) notes that the global climate is rapidly changing as result of rise in temperature. He notes that in the past 100 years, the average earth’s temperature increased by approximately 0.8 degrees centigrade, with the highest percentage occurring in the last three decades. Climate projections has also been done to show that in 21st century the increase in temperature will be from 1.1 to 2.9 degrees centigrade for low cases and from 2.4 to 6.4 degrees centigrade for extreme upper cases. Moore (1995, p. 2-5) indicates that the main contributor to climate change is the atmospheric pollution. The pollution results from emissions from burning of energy such as fossil fuels which produce wastes called green house gases (carbon dioxide, water vapour, nitrous oxide and methane). Other causes that are tied to climate change are the human activities like deforestation and emission of chemicals like chlorofluoro carbons that leads to ozone layer depletion.

Climate change has a direct bearing on various sectors on the economy especially by impacting directly on the livelihoods of urban residents or the surrounding hinterlands that supply urban areas with essential services such as foodstuff. The realisation is that urban activities as result of inadequacies in urban planning enhances vulnerability by enhancing natural calamities or predisposing individual to extreme externalities such as flooding, famine/ drought as result of unreliable precipitation patterns; rising of sea level and sinking of island towns, thawing of glaciers, acidic rain & water bodies, corrosion of building & natural features, shrinking ecological zones & disappearance of species and destruction of built environment through typhoons (Newton, 2006, p.1). These are likely to have direct bearing on livelihoods of urban dwellers and liveability of such of the said areas.

C under the high emissions scenario. Indeed, they posit that ‘Australia’s exposure to the impacts and level of sensitivity to the impacts of climate change is high, with a range of implications for our settlements and infrastructure, including: changing rainfall patterns on traditional water supplies; sea-level rises for coastal cities; and increased frequency of extreme weather’ (p.81).0C beyond 1990 levels by 2030. By 2070, the projection is that the increase will be by 5.00Australian Government-Department of Infrastructure & Transport (2010, p.81) opines that every passing decade has witnessed rise in temperature as compared to the previous ones. Moreover, it is projected that the average annual temperatures in Australia will rise by 1.0

Lankao (2008, p.5) summarises the risks city dwellers face as a result of climate change. He notes that “urban areas will be faced with increases in the frequency and intensity of heavy rain, storms, droughts, heat-waves and other extreme weather events”. In Australian context, Australian Government-Department of Infrastructure & Transport (2010, p.83) observes that there is the possibility of increased propensity to extreme weather conditions. In this context, it noted that there is a likelihood of increased droughts, bushfires, storm surges, cyclones and hail. The impact of such to urban or built human settlement is the increased damage to physical infrastructure & utilities which in turn would imply disruption of principal services that sustains urban life, upward spiral in insurance cost so as to cater for the increased risks, persistent looming danger that is likely to cost human life & livelihood disruption as result of typhoons, rise in sea level, respiratory diseases associated with air pollution and heat stress that can cause sun burn & skin cancer.

To expand on the above identified points, one of the impact of climate change on urban dwellers and overall urban liveability and development is premised on the fact climate change is associated erratic rainfall patterns and limited volume of annual rainfall. Such limited amount of rainfall is likely to impact on food availability & cost and water supplied to households in urban areas and the cost owing to reduced amount of water in natural system. For instance, Australian Government-Department of Infrastructure & Transport (2010, p.70) points out that from the onset of 1950s the eastern Australia and southwest have experienced declined rainfall by 50mm per decade yet it is this region that hosts largest cities and populations.

Such impacts have a ripple effect on the adaptation ability of residents as it doubles their vulnerability owing to destruction of livelihoods and emergence of opportunistic diseases. For instance, coastal zones in south-eastern Queensland are facing threat of submerging owing to the fact that sea levels in those areas are increasingly rising. The negative impact of such experiences is possibility of reduced tourism activities that sustain the economy owing to destruction of natural beaches and possibility of flooding as most households would submerge (Serrao-Neumann et al., 2014, p.490).

4.2 Challenges

Tomlinson (2012) observes that urbanisation in Australia is centred on private hands with government having a role of creating enabling environment — government and local authorities’ involvement as regulators, urbanisation process in Australia is characterised by laissez-fare policy where government adopts economy-driven trajectories with the government entry being in social infrastructure, prime utilities and in some instance urban mega-projects. For instance, Buxton & Scheurer (2007, p.92) notes that “Development companies have become the primary determiners of urban form in both inner and outer areas of cities in Australia”. Urbanisation in Australia that stood at 64% presents various challenges to city planning and thus inability to develop sustainable developments that do not spur environmental change. Equally, systemic gaps in city planning equally present challenges in curtailing release of harmful products that contributes to pollution and climate change.

One of the challenges in addressing climate change as a result of human activities in urban areas rest on the fact that policy integration within the context of climate change is a relatively new concept (Serrao-Neumann et al., 2014, p.490). The appreciation and contextualisation of sustainable development so as to limit human settlement/ development on environment is associated with Brundtland Commission of 1987 that culminated to Rio Conference in 1992 (Naess, 2001, p.504). This affirms how the strategy is a young concept and most planning authorities might have not mastered the appropriate mechanisms in integrating these policies into city planning.

Serrao-Neumann et al.(2014, p.491) identifies six issues why policy integration for climate adaptation has become a challenge in city planning. First, they point out that overlap in policies, limited inter-linkages and policy interplay limits the ability to curtail climate change derived from urban settlements. Secondly, there is limited understanding of the concept of integration for climate adaption. Third, there is lack or inadequate synergy in terms of co-ordination across various domains and trade-offs so as to address climate change. Further, there has been inability to strategically address sectoral concerns. Others include lack of normative trend towards integration and lack of or inadequate better coordination across sectors to avoid maladaptation.

Figure 4: Policy integration for climate adaptation

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Source: Serrao-Neumann et al., 2014, p.491

Secondly, addressing climate change becomes difficult owing to the ethical theoretical anchoring & moral obligations of most corporate and individuals operations while exploiting various natural resources. Naess (2001, p.505) notes that curtailing of climatic change calls for adoption distributive ethics where burdens and benefits are distributed over a period of time, but which most current generations and institutions are not willing to adhere to. Presently, most organisations do not premise their operations on deontological aspirations that bind them to embrace a social contract of doing good as informed by non-consequentialism approaches. Companies and individuals have adopted non-caring attitudes that do not embrace natural capitalism. In this regard, most companies seek to exploit natural resource without concern to their future impacts so long as their present profit urge is met yet there is the realisation that profitability of organisations in near future is tied to how well they embrace corporate environmentalism (Lovins, Lovins & Hawken, 1999, p.147-150).

The other challenge is fronted by the rapid urbanisation and urban sprawl being experienced in Australia. For instance, Buxton & Scheurer (2007, p.92) notes that “Unless current practices are changed in Melbourne, land set aside in outer urban areas will be used up for housing faster than necessary, and large areas of land squandered”. Residential Development Council (2007, (p.11) found out that there is higher degree of association between greenhouse gas emissions per square unit in suburban areas with spread out development – single family detached units. This is the exact experience in higher density areas where greenhouse gas emissions are lower as compared to lower density areas. On the other side of the argument, it is observed that compact developments are the most fuel efficient of all urban forms as opposed to sprawl and conurbations (Newton, 2006, p.14).

The other challenge lies on the over reliance on fossil fuel energy to drive most human operations in Australian cities and transport sector. Australian Government-Department of Infrastructure & Transport (2010, p.74) observes that Australia is one of the top most consumers og energy per capita in the world. The concern is that an approximate 97% of energy consumed in Australia as per the 2007/08 study established that most is derived from non-renewable energy sources such as petroleum products, coal and natural gas. This is a concern to city planning in addressing climate change since this exploitation of these resources have massive impact on environment through greenhouse gas emission, depletion and other pollution associated with production and consumption of such energy sources.

4.3 Opportunities

The opportunities within the urban or city planning lies with the platform it offers for advancing planned adaptation through holistic approach that addresses causes, rehabilitation, prevention and legislation (Lankao, 2008, p.18). For instance, Australian Government-Department of Infrastructure & Transport (2010, p.70) notes that Australian cities can offer paths towards sustainable development. This is attainable through proper city planning so as to enhance efficient use of resources such as water, energy & land as well as limiting the production of wastes such as carbon dioxide.

Naess (2001, p.506) identifies myriad of responses in managing climate change through city planning. The first solution they present is the reduction of energy use and emission per capita in the urban areas. Through Clean Energy Act 2011 (Cth), Australian government endeavours to reduce dependence on non-renewable energy. The focus is to expand generation of renewable energy by 20% in 20202.for instance, by the end of 2007, Australia had invested in 42 wind farms with these farms having a total of 563 wind turbines (Zahedi, 2010, p.2009). other strategies that can be implemented to minimise possibility of increased climate change is through minimisation of conversation of surrounding hinterland into urban development through proper land use plans such as densification. Additionally, authorities should regulate use of environmentally harmful products by encouraging green technologies such as leadership in energy and environmental design. Moreover, municipalities and cities should replace open ended flows with closed loop system so as to reduce waste emission (Naess, 2001, p.506).

Apart from urban designs, corporations and any other institutions involved in production should be encouraged to adopt natural capitalism. Lovins, Lovins & Hawken (1999, p.146-148) supposes that institutions should be hands on in curtailing the wasteful and destructive flow of resources by ensuring that they invest in natural capital, shift to biologically inspired production approaches and increase of production of natural resources. In this regard, it seen that business have thrived in destruction of environment through over exploitation, introduction of non-biodegradable waste and wanton destruction without thinking of the impact they have on the sustainability of environment in a long term perspective yet the reality is that natural system offers diverse services to both humanity and the rest of living things that have not artificial substitution. For instance, it is not easy to create oxygen that could satisfy the needs of the whole world yet nature avails it free (Hawken, 1997, p.41).

5.0 Conclusion

The aim of the paper was to examine the risk, challenges and opportunities within the context of city planning and climate change. The paper established there are numerous risk associated with climate change as result of inadequacies in city planning such as flooding, hurricanes and typhoons. These increase urban dwellers vulnerability and destruction of livelihoods and integral urban infrastructures. Equally, the paper opines that there numerous challenges that makes it difficult for city planning to address climate change. These relates to the concept of sustainability being new concept, rapid urbanisation and urban sprawl and overreliance on fossil fuel and other non-renewable energy which are not environmentally friendly. Despite of these risks and challenges, there are opportunities that can be exploited through land use planning and ecological friendly strategies to curtail climate change and its impacts.


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