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.
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.
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.
“Why should people have to suffer?”: Peter’s story of living in Melbourne’s baking hot public housing
For the last five years Peter has been living in high-rise public housing in Flemington, a suburb north of the city. In the three decades since Peter moved to Australia, he has seen Melbourne’s summers grow hotter, more intense and harder to cope with. A lack of insulation and cooling measures means that Peter has…
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Over the last few weeks, we have been collecting stories from renters across Victoria about what it feels like to live in a hot home. We have compiled these stories into our submission to the Victorian Government’s inquiry into the rental and housing affordability crisis. These powerful stories paint a stark picture of the struggles…
Last week, renters and supporters came together for the third Heatwave Safe Rentals campaign meeting, to plan an upcoming summer event and discuss how we can take advantage of the Victorian Government’s inquiry into the rental and housing crisis. The campaign gained momentum with the addition of new supporters joining the meeting, united by a…
Raphael has lived in Erskine Park in Sydney’s Western Suburbs for 22 years. He was a chemist and is now retired. He spoke to Sweltering Cities’ Community Campaigner about his experiences in Western Sydney.