Why Hobart could be the next most sustainable city in the world
The City of Hobart is one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world today. Since the year 2000, it’s been reducing its own corporate emissions and have made significant progress since, achieving 68% lower emissions compared to its previous level in the year 2000.
Councillor Anna Reynolds was elected Lord Mayor of Hobart in November 2018, the third woman to be elected into the role. First elected as an Alderman to the City of Hobart in 2014, she was Chairperson of the Parks and Recreation Committee during her first term. As Lord Mayor, Anna is focused on a range of issues including affordable housing, climate change, active transport, and protecting Hobart’s heritage.
Impact X’s Tony Boatman recently caught up with Lord Mayor Anna Reynolds for a wide ranging discussion around climate change, sustainability and impact technology.
Tony Boatman: In December 2020, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy announced your appointment to the board as a representative not just for the city of Hobart, but for the Oceana region in general. Do you want to tell us more about your role in the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy?
Anna Reynolds: The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is a global alliance of mayors from over 10,000 cities from a huge number of countries and representing nearly a billion people living on the planet. And we are a coalition of mayors that want to take action on climate change ourselves in our cities.
But also, we want to see action taken by national governments who often hold many of the levers, and we're dependent on them for setting the right policies that help our cities as well.
If you work in climate change, there's a lot of bad news around and a lot of feeling that things aren't happening fast enough, but I think one place where you do see a lot of positive stories and a lot of positive action happening is at the city level.
Tony Boatman: In 2020, you launched your five-year sustainable Hobart Action Plan. Can you share any progress and give us some insights as we get to 2030 and net zero target?
Anna Reynolds: The City of Hobart has been reducing its own corporate emissions since the year 2000. We've made a big dent on our corporate emissions. They are 68% lower than they were in the year 2000. We have a very stubborn remaining level of emissions, most of which come from our landfill, so unlike some. inner city councils, we actually do own and run a landfill. We have an ambitious goal to have zero waste going into landfill by 2030, but we will need to keep working and trying to find ways to reduce the emissions that are coming – the methane emissions that are coming from the landfill, both now and even after we close it. So we will have to really keep on top of the technology in terms of reducing those emissions.
The other thing that's a bit unusual about Hobart is that Tasmania is largely running on hydro energy so it’s largely 100% renewable energy from Tasmania. If we are to reduce our emissions further, we really need to look at the transport sector and, as I mentioned, the waste sector. And also working with our community, on community emissions.
And I think that's one of the most interesting next steps for the City of Hobart. We are actually going to engage in a process with the not-for-profit sector to assist us to have a discussion with the community about what would they like to be their community emissions reduction target.
"We've made a big dent on our corporate emissions. They are 68% lower than they were in the year 2000."
Tony Boatman: You mentioned technology as an enabler to get to this net zero. What sort of technologies are you looking at at a city level?
Anna Reynolds: Well, one example that I could mention is around food and organic waste processing. We recently started a food and organics collection service. We've got a new bin with the green top where food is placed along with garden waste, and that's really important because more than 50% of the average residential bin is food waste and so it's just a waste. It's a terrible source of methane when it goes into landfill. But it's a waste of fantastic compost that can be used for the agricultural sector by just going into landfill and not being used.
So, we've started collecting that food and organic waste. But at the moment, it's being processed quite a distance from the city of Hobart, so we really would like to find a solution that's closer to the city. But also, we're putting into one of our city laneways a composting unit. We are investing in a trial plant – small composting plant that we're putting on the side of a community hall that's in the in the CBD. Quite close to a lot of restaurants and cafes and we will be using that facility to process food waste from our own hall, but hopefully, also some of the businesses around that would like to use it as well, and that basically turns food waste into compost in about a 24-hour period. And it’s just a little unit sitting attached to the building.
"More than 50% of the average residential bin is food waste, and so it's just waste. It's a terrible source of methane when it goes into landfill, but it's a waste of fantastic compost that can be used for the agricultural sector by just going into landfill and not being used."
Tony Boatman: I was reading in the Canberra Times, this might be a little biased, but Canberra have been nominated or awarded the World's Most Sustainable City. Is there any ambition for Hobart to sort of… a little bit of healthy competition down there?
Anna Reynolds: Yeah, absolutely so. Hobart is a capital city, as is Canberra, and we, Capital city mayors all get together a couple of times a year. But I've got to say that we are all a little bit jealous of Canberra.
One of the features of Canberra is that they only have two levels of government, so their local government has all the resources and levers on things like the transport sector…they run the public transport system, for example. They can make much progressive decisions that they can implement around the energy sector as well.
We, as you know, in the states that have three levels of government, sometimes for local government, for cities, it does make it a little bit trickier for us to meet the ambitions that we have because we actually have to advocate for the policy change to another level of government.
"I do hope people, rather than being scared, that they actually see that we must respond."
Tony Boatman: I'm going to ask one more question and it's a sentence that I'd like to ask you to finish: CLIMATE CHANGE IS…
Anna Reynolds: ...the most overwhelming challenge that we face as citizens in the world today. But it's also the most interesting and important issue that we can contribute to. The work that any of us do on tackling climate change in the coming decade is probably the most important work that we will do in our lifetime.
So, although it's incredibly worrying, the most recent results of the IPCC [study], I do hope people, rather than being scared, that they actually see that we must respond. We must take action. And this is a really important and interesting transition that we can all be part of.
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