Panuku Development Auckland’s Head of Corporate Responsibility Miranda James reflects on some of the inspiring and exciting work happening around the world, as cities involved in the C40 Low Carbon Districts Network work to create low-carbon districts.
The nature of what we do at Panuku means we’re hugely focused on Auckland, and what we can practically do to realise the vision of ‘the world’s most liveable city’.
But Auckland doesn’t exist in a vacuum. From time to time it’s valuable to connect with other cities to ask questions, share experiences, and learn. When it comes to sustainability, we have an ambitious goal – to reduce our city-wide carbon emissions by 10-20 per cent by 2020, and by 40 per cent by 2040. Under this we have targets for waste, transport, green buildings and energy. Learning from others’ successes will be key to reaching our milestones.
I was incredibly lucky to be in Melbourne recently as part of the C40 Low Carbon Districts Network workshop. C40 is a network of international cities collaborating on climate change strategies, and Auckland is a member. At the Low Carbon Districts network, cities that are actively creating new precincts and areas with a sustainability focus, are able to share projects they’re working on and how they’re achieving these low carbon areas.
There is some inspiring and exciting work happening around the world, as cities create low-carbon districts. In Melbourne we heard about the Shougang province within Beijing, a 700-hectare site that will be not just low carbon, but climate positive – that is, removing more emissions than it creates. The project involves the relocation of huge steelworks, and the company that formerly ran the site is now developing it, as well as setting up a new waste-to-energy business unit and energy services. One of the carbon strategies for the district is to preserve and re-use the industrial heritage buildings on the site. At Shougang, green clauses are included on the title of all land deeds, and also in lease agreements – to ensure that in operation tenants will continue to manage properties sustainably.
In a completely different cultural context is Toronto – where the city is implementing a district renewable energy scheme, with underground pipes being installed at road crossings as part of road re-alignment. The system uses solar thermal, geothermal and sewage heat recovery, and is being designed in a modular way to enable scaling up, rather than using a central plant with pipes radiating out. To make this happen, Toronto specifically sought an energy developer separate from the property developer, who will sell the renewably-generated energy to tenants and occupants in the precinct. The payback is longer than traditional energy networks – 15 years as opposed to five – but still attractive over the long term of regeneration projects – and will get better as energy costs rise.
Vancouver, one of the greenest cities in the world, undertook a brand evaluation exercise which valued its green reputation at a staggering US$31 billion – one of the reasons it’s opposing a proposed oil pipeline across parts of British Columbia from Alberta, as the risk of a spill would significantly impact its ecology and brand value. Twice a year, Vancouver runs a ‘Dragon’s Den-like competition for innovative local businesses working in the green economy. If they have a technology or solution the city can use, Vancouver’s municipal authority agrees to be a testing bed and the company can run proof-of-concept trails, using the demonstration as a marketing tool.
There are many more cities around the world doing remarkable things to address climate change and create sustainable, prosperous, liveable cities for future generations.
Can Auckland pick up any of these good ideas and adapt them to our local context? We obviously have different constraints and opportunities than our global peers. We may well come up with our own local innovations that inspire other cities. However we tackle future development in our regeneration areas, sustainability needs to be integral to our thinking.