As we enter a critical decade for action on climate change, we are already beginning to glimpse the impacts that a changing climate may have on our everyday lives.
Likely major consequences of climate change will include more frequent and widespread bushfires, flooding, extreme heat and increased occurrences of pandemics.
The increase of these events will have far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society and this clearly highlights the vulnerabilities that Australians will face.
Cities are at the forefront of responding to a changing climate and the systematic shocks that will be faced in the future. At the City of Newcastle (CN), reducing emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change has been a focus area for more than 25 years.
During this time, CN has delivered strong cuts in emissions across its operations, making significant financial savings in the process. It has led by example and formed strong partnerships, in helping the City shift towards a low-carbon future and transition to an economy of greater self-sufficiency and resilience.
To meet the challenges of a climate emergency, take advantage of the economic opportunities from meeting emissions targets and create a net zero emission City, it will take collective action, commitment and leadership from all sectors of the community.
Sharing knowledge, research and experience to drive down emissions in Newcastle and beyond will help deliver the community’s vision for a smart, liveable and sustainable global city.
The past five years has been about reducing our electricity emissions. I’m proud that we’ve successfully done this, by firstly building a 5MW solar farm and then going a step further to sign a wind power deal and become the first Council in NSW to reach 100% renewables.
While it sounds simple enough, it’s taken years of dedication to deliver leadership in such a complex area.
Having effectively dealt with emissions from electricity sources, transport emissions are now our next biggest challenge and it’s an area that governments and businesses across Australia are grappling with.
This has informed development of our Climate Action Plan. A series of focused, practical actions that can achieve a Net Zero Emissions organisation and strive to accelerate a Net Zero City.
While use of liquid fuels makes up nearly 90% of our remaining emissions and will be the main requirement in reaching Net Zero Emissions, many other opportunities exist through better use and management of resources, advancing options for a circular economy and setting clear expectations with suppliers about the preference for low carbon products and materials.
Although CN’s carbon footprint is not large compared to the rest of the City, the sooner CN reaches Net Zero Emissions, the bigger the cumulative impact of this achievement and the greater the opportunity to encourage change in the City from a position of leadership.
As the Sustainability Manager at City of Newcastle, I’ve been fortunate to work in an area that I am not only deeply passionate about, but also one in which I feel I can make a real difference in reducing environmental impact and shifting the city towards Net Zero Emissions.
To ensure that I stay across the latest developments and research in best practice actions from around the world, I applied and was successful in receiving a 2020 Churchill Fellowship. Churchill Fellowships are awarded to people from all walks of life to create positive change in our communities and have been recognised to address challenges facing contemporary Australia.
A Churchill Fellowship offers a life-changing opportunity to travel overseas to investigate a topic or issue that you are passionate about. As an internationally recognised award, recipients gain access to expertise from around the world, not typically available to everyone.
My project will investigate leading global actions to transition cities to a resilient low carbon economy, with a strong focus on electric transport, charging infrastructure, vehicle-to-grid, demand response and renewables.
It will investigate cities and organisations that are deploying innovative projects, policies and commercially-available technology to meet the urgent need to decarbonise and build local resilience.
This study tour will enable Newcastle to continue its transition to a smart, liveable and sustainable global city and provide a local exemplar for Australian cities and regions.
In order to get to Net Zero, Transport emissions are our next big challenge. We need to learn from cities around the world that have already done this successfully and this is the focus of my Churchill fellowship.
This is why I’ll be looking to learn from Oslo which has the highest % of electric vehicles in the world, as well as investigating electric buses in Singapore, and electric garbage trucks in Germany.
I’m looking at solutions for each piece of the puzzle. Not just supply of vehicles but also the charging infrastructure, the planning needs and the renewable energy supply that supports it all.
It’s not just the technology though, but how do you encourage uptake and how do you do it at scale. It’s also about learning from those that have already done it well.
Among this year’s cohort, there’s also a number of other related projects from some inspirational fellowship recipients, looking at renewable energy zones, new battery materials, hydrogen, electric mobility and grid optimisation amongst other topics.
A Churchill Fellowship will give me and other recipients an incredible opportunity to draw on expert advice across the world and forge new networks. It represents a platform to share knowledge, solutions and create impact.
Adam Clarke is the Sustainability Manager at the City of Newcastle
His 8-week Churchill study tour will visit Singapore, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France and Spain. Whilst international travel is not possible at present due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Churchill Fellowship Trust will provide Fellows an extended period of time to undertake their project.