Liveable cities

Heatwaves are our deadliest environmental disaster. Yet we’re still building dangerously hot homes and infrastructure that will buckle during heatwaves.

Our planning regulations don’t take into account the environmental, health or social costs of building. Our campaign is to make sure that the buildings, homes and infrastructure we’re building now meet two goals: 

  • Are safe to live in in our changing climate and future extreme heat
  • Help us get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 (at the latest)

Net zero carbon emission cities

The buildings and infrastructure built now need to fit into Australia’s 2050 net zero carbon emissions target. This will reduce carbon emissions, give workers more confidence in long term plans and future-proof our suburbs. New homes should be energy efficient and be ready for renewable electricity. Common sense energy efficiency measures like high quality insulation, eaves, light roofs and having enough room for trees in new suburbs are all affordable and effective. Making sure that our suburbs have high quality public and active transport networks will reduce transport related carbon emissions

Transitioning our energy system away from fossil fuels will decarbonise the supply side of our energy system, but we also need to design and build our cities to facilitate decarbonisation on the demand side.

Safe cities in a warming climate

The type of cities we build now will define the number of people who die in the deadly heatwave of our future. The sprawling urban heat island developments spreading around our cities have few trees, lots of concrete and dark surfaces to attract the heat. Our hottest suburbs already reach 50° on the ground in summer and in the coming decades we will experience summer heatwaves where it is dangerous to leave the house. We cannot build enough heat shelters for the millions of people who will be impacted by deadly heatwaves, so we need to make our homes safer. 

Practically, what this looks like is updating the climate benchmarks for measures like the BASIX standards to be set according to the projected future climate, not historical climate data.

In 2020 Waverley Council released a report saying that homes built under current standards would be unliveable without mechanical cooling by 2070. 

For somewhere like Western Sydney, it would mean people could feel confident when they’re buying a new home that it will be safer in environmental disasters. Infrastructure like public transport would be more reliable in the future and during disasters.

People will see the practical and local transformation of our cities for sustainability and liveability. Our air will be cleaner and our workplaces will be safer. We will have better physical and mental health. 

Some of the measures required are easy (no more black roofs in hot suburbs) and some are hard (deciding what areas may be unsafe to live in). However, the only guarantee is that not acting will result in higher emissions, more climate catastrophe and unsafe homes and suburbs.

Local campaigns

Did you know that synthetic turf can increase ground surface temperatures by 80-90% compared to natural grass? Plastic grass exacerbates the urban heat island effect by absorbing heat, warming air temperatures, and hardening soil. As temperatures rise in our cities, urban heat islands will be even more dangerous.

You can read more information about the issues with fake grass here.

Victorians across the state have told us that they don’t want any more fake grass installed in schools or public parks. We’ve heard stories of burning hot parks and seen photos of sweltering sports fields reaching over 60°.

It’s time to end the use of fake plastic grass in public spaces across our suburbs. We need to take action to reduce the urban heat island effect and green our public spaces to reduce heat.  

Help us tackle the issue of fake plastic grass by signing this petition, and letting us know where the fake grass is in your neighbourhood.

Latest news

  • Sweltering Cities joins 100 organisations calling for 7 Star homes

    Sweltering Cities joins 100 organisations calling for 7 Star homes

    The way we build homes now will decide how safe people are in the extreme heat of our future. We need to increase minimum standards so that safe, sustainable housing isn’t only a luxury. We signed on with 100 organisations to a statement from sustainability organisation Renew to support higher building standards in the National […]


  • Key things we learned about cities and heat from the State of the Environment report

    Key things we learned about cities and heat from the State of the Environment report

    The 2021 State of the Environment report (SOE) was released in July 2022. The SOE reports have been released every 5 years since 1995 and are an assessment of every aspect of Australia’s environment and heritage, including rivers, oceans, air, ice, land and urban areas. We’ve pulled out some key findings related to heatwaves, cities […]


  • Public housing high-rise residents suffering in the heat with inadequate infrastructure

    Public housing high-rise residents suffering in the heat with inadequate infrastructure

    Sweltering Cities Melbourne Community Campaigner joined a  weekly morning tea for residents from some of Melbourne’s over 55’s public housing towers. The purpose of the visit was to discuss their experiences of living in the towers during heatwaves, the effects that the heat has on their livelihoods, and what they would like to see changed. 


  • Make a submission to the NSW Design and Place State Enviro Planning Policy review

    Make a submission to the NSW Design and Place State Enviro Planning Policy review

    re some good things in the draft like cool roof measures, more trees and improved energy efficiency standards. However we think there are some clear areas where we could do more, like measuring home energy efficiency against future climate projections and going beyond trees to tackle the urban heat island effect on a range of fronts.


  • New HEATWATCH report for Western Sydney

    New HEATWATCH report for Western Sydney

    HeatWatch: Penrith Could Face Nearly Two Months of Extreme Heat Per Year Extreme heat days over 35 degrees are projected to increase five-fold in Western Sydney, where areas such as Penrith could experience up to 58 days (almost two months) of extreme heat per year. This landmark HeatWatch report is by the Australia Institute Climate […]


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