Adopting the Sustainable Development Goals is a Business Opportunity for Australia

It has been 25 years since Australia last experienced a recession. We’ve had an extraordinary period of uninterrupted economic growth – the longest in modern history – and this has greatly increased our prosperity.

Thanks to the abundance of natural resources needed to build roads, railways and skyscrapers in fast-growing cities across Asia, Australia’s economy has had a good run over the past quarter century.

But an expanding list of environmental, health and social burdens risk undermining our growth model. Business as usual is not an option. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, are 17 goals for ending poverty, transforming health and education, improving our cities and communities, addressing gender equity and tackling urgent challenges such as climate change. Collectively, they propose a new development pathway, based on partnership between governments, civil society and business that could transform our societies.

Photo: article supplied

Take our cities, for example. Cities are the economic powerhouses of our country, especially since the end of the mining boom (our capital cities alone generate around two-thirds of our GDP). Cities matter more than ever to our future employment and prosperity, but our urban quality of life is deteriorating. We spend on average 85 minutes a day commuting, up from 50 minutes half a century ago. Congestion already costs our capital cities $16.5bn annually, and that could double by 2030. The affordability of housing nationwide has more than halved since 1980, locking many out of the Australian dream.

Our urban lifestyles have become a growing burden on our health, too. A rising set of noncommunicable diseases, such as obesity, are posing massive challenges for the health system. In 2015, almost two in three Australian adults were overweight or obese.

The labour force is changing dramatically. A report completed by AlphaBeta for the Foundation for Young Australians found that 70% of young people currently enter the workforce in jobs that will be radically affected by automation and imports over the next 10 to 15 years.

This article was originally published by The Guardian.

Click here to read the entire article.

 

Australia’s cities are green but they also have some major flaws

Australia’s major cities are in danger of becoming miserable metropolises full of unhappy residents unless more investment is made in public transport and there’s some relief from the high cost of living.

The country’s capitals are also ill prepared for natural disasters and would struggle to cope in the face of a major terrorist attack.

That’s the conclusion of an innovative study that ranked 100 of the world’s cities according to how they fared when it came to social, economic and environmental factors — or, as the research lists them — people, profit and planet.

Canberra is Australia’s happiest and most sustainable city.Source:News Corp Australia
Canberra is Australia’s happiest and most sustainable city. Source:News Corp Australia

And unlike many other surveys of global cities, the Sustainable Cities Index placed Melbourne below its archrival of Sydney.

“A lot of people get confused with sustainability being just about the environment but, by our definition, balancing immediate needs of the population without compromising the needs of tomorrow is the heart of a sustainable city,” said Greg Steele, chief executive officer of design and consultancy firm Arcadis’ Australia Pacific arm, which commissioned the research.

The world’s most sustainable city was Zurich, which scored highest on environmental metrics for being a profit centre. But it fell because of the lack of work-life balance and high prices in the Swiss city.

Singapore, Stockholm, Vienna and London were also in the top five.

Asked which global city balanced profit, planet and people most successfully, Mr Steele highlighted Canberra, which is the highest ranked Australian city and the 18th most sustainable city worldwide.

Mr Steele said the ACT’s single level of government meant things got done quickly and initiatives, such as Canberra’s new light rail, were going to keep it on top.

But just like Australia’s other major cities, a lack of affordable housing had dragged it down.

And if Canberrans think they’ve got it bad, just head up the road.

Melbourne was down the list of Australia’s most sustainable cities. Picture: Mark StewartSource:News Corp Australia
Melbourne was down the list of Australia’s most sustainable cities. Source:News Corp Australia

Despite the multitude of catastrophic events, from floods in Brisbane to bushfires on the outskirts of Melbourne, the report found dealing with disasters including possible terrorist attacks, wasn’t a priority.

In the global rankings, Sydney was the world’s 21st most sustainable city, Brisbane the 30th and Melbourne 32nd.

The harbour city’s collection of world class universities and its generally healthier population pulled it in front of Melbourne and Brisbane. The Victorian capital also scored worse on the environmental front than Sydney.

Yet last month, the Economist Intelligence Unit found Melbourne the world’s most liveable city with Sydney kicked out of the global leaderboard due to the “heightened perceived threat of terrorism”.

He also said that the Arcadis survey measured something else: happiness — or the lack of.

A successful work life balance as well as a quick commute were factors that helped residents get happy.

Read more.

Reconnecting urban planning with health and well-being

urban sustainabilityFor many, a city is a double-edged sword. It creates new wealth and opportunities for many but also results in myriad concerns around adequate job opportunities, hygiene, cost of living, security and quality of life.

Urban waste and pollution have also contributed significantly to global warming, with some 70 per cent of carbon emissions coming from cities, according to the United Nations. This has not only affected crop yields and food security but, increasingly, posed higher risks to susceptibility to new communicable diseases such as the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared an international public health emergency.

Malaysia for example, experienced a 50 percent rise in deaths from dengue fever — like Zika, a tropical disease transmitted by the Aedes mosquito — last year compared with the previous year. According to the Health Ministry, that’s the biggest such jump ever recorded.

Medical experts point to rapid urbanization alongside poor planning as a key cause of the spread of new and existing diseases in cities, a factor that is being exacerbated by global warming. An important tool in responding, then, is to bolster the systems offered by the city and its communities.

The policymaking challenge of reconnecting urban planning with public health was a central point made in a set of stakeholder recommendations for sustainable urbanization released this month, called “The City We Need 2.0”. The report, the result of more than two-dozen public events that took place around the globe over the past half-year, puts forth 10 key “principles” for a new vision of sustainable urbanisation. To read more click here.

The 9th International Urban Design Conference will be held in Melbourne in November.  To express your interest in the 2016 Conference CLICK HERE.

Early Bird Registration Closing Soon!

You are invited to The 8th International Urban Design Conference, held at the Sofitel Brisbane from Monday 16 November to Wednesday 18 November 2015.

Early Bird registration for the Conference will close Friday 2 October so make sure you have registered and paid by close of business 2 October 2015.

In 2014, this event sold out so you are encouraged to register at your earliest convenience to secure your seat.

This years’ theme titled Empowering Change: Transformative Innovations and Projects will focus on inspirational changes in urban environments.  To view the conference program click here.

This years’ Conference streams to include:

  • Building inclusive multicultural cities
  • Eco cities
  • Health & urban design
  • Higher density urbanism
  • Spatial / temporal changes in Chinese cities
  • Rapid urban development in South East Asia, China & India
  • Balancing the quick and slow formation of cities
  • Using technology to change how cities work
  • How will big data change the future of cities?
  • Urban Design Practice

To secure your discounted delegate rate before early bird registration closes, please visit the conference website here.

If you have any questions about the event, please do not hesitate to contact the Conference Secretariat on +61 (07) 5502 2068 or email conference@urbandesignaustralia.com.au

Australia named ‘world’s greenest property industry’

Real Estate Business Online

Australia has again placed first in an international ranking of sustainability in real estate.

For the fifth year running, the region of Australia and New Zealand topped the annual survey, which is conducted by GRESB, a Dutch-based industry group.

Property companies in Australia and New Zealand achieved an average score of 69, which was well ahead of the other regions.

Property Council of Australia chief executive Ken Morrison said the Australian property industry should be proud of the result.

“Not only is our industry keeping the economy growing and providing jobs for more Australians than almost any other – we are doing it sustainably, ranking as the world’s greenest property industry,” he said.

“We are showing unheralded leadership when it comes to sustainability, regularly going well beyond what is required and, in the process, creating buildings, public spaces and communities of which future generations can also be proud.”

Read the full article here.