20 July 2018
To make the best decisions about ensuring our cities are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable now and in the future, we need the best possible information. Against the backdrop of a changing climate, we can no longer rely on the past as an indicator of the future. Planning, management and policy decisions need to consider science-based evidence to ensure that cities are not only prepared for possible risks but can also take advantage of new opportunities.
This was the message from Hub staff at this week’s Liveable Cities conference in Melbourne, where policy makers, planning professionals and sustainability practitioners from across the country gathered to discuss the liveability of metropolitan and regional urban centres.
Around 60 conference delegates attended the Business Leaders Breakfast hosted by the Hub where our science, along with research from the Threatened Species Recovery (TSR) and Clean Air and Urban Landscapes (CAUL) Hubs, was presented.
The Hub’s Dr Michael Grose gave an introduction to the types of climate change impacts that relate to urban living and planning, including the impact of extreme events such as heatwaves, and how these are likely to impact on urban cities and human health into the future. Climate change projections show that large Australian cities, such as Melbourne and Sydney, will experience increasing numbers of days over 40°C as the climate continues to warm. Michael highlighted the role of sustainable and smart urban planning and design which can act to reduce climate impacts, such as ensuring adequate and well placed greenspaces and vegetation in cities to reduce the urban heat island effect.
The importance of maintaining biodiversity in urban areas and the benefits nature has on both physical and social and emotional human health was the focus of Dr Sarah Bekessy’s presentation. Sarah, a researcher at both the TSR Hub and the CAUL Hub, stressed the importance of considering future climate in urban design, including the importance of planting suitably adapted trees to ensure urban vegetation and biodiversity values are sustainable into the future.
CAUL Hub leader Dr Kirsten Parris wrapped up the proceedings by discussing the need to identify planning options that balance urban and conservation needs. Kirsten explained that 376 of Australia’s threatened species live in or visit city and peri-urban areas, so the balance between urban development and the protection of threatened species is important – especially as Australia’s cities continue to expand. Kirsten also talked about CAUL Hub’s use of citizen science to monitor urban wildlife, and how both climate change science and Indigenous knowledge play important roles in ensuring the liveability of our cities into the future.
Attendees were keen to continue discussions with presenters on social impacts, links between urban spaces and threatened species and climate change and biodiversity values in cities.