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What are leading cities doing in response to the climate and biodiversity crises that we face?

18 June 2024

What are the best cities in the world doing in response to the multiple challenges of the climate, biodiversity, and housing crises that we face?

Noting that Perth is struggling to adequately respond to any of these challenges with our greenhouse gas emissions growing, our biodiversity declining, and housing harder to find and more expensive than ever, I headed to Europe on a study tour to find out.

A couple of key themes emerged as I met with experts and rode and walked the streets of Copenhagen, Malmo, Utrecht, and Paris.

First buildings were seen as part of the solution, with old buildings being adaptively reused rather than being knocked down and new buildings increasingly being built out of sustainable materials like wood and even hemp and being net producers rather than net consumers of energy.

Second, the streets of each of these cities were largely seen as places for people first and cars second. All of these cities had embraced streets that were low speed. In Utrecht, for example, every street, with the exception of highways, was 30 km an hour. This meant that every street could be a safe cycling and walking street. In fact, in Utrecht has radically flipped the idea of a street in which all streets are now bike and walking streets – streets in which cars are but a guest. As a result, over 50% of people go to work or school on a bike each day and less than 30% by car.  This meant it was the quietest city I have ever been in. We stayed a few hundred meters from the center and could only hear birds and bike bells.

The third key element I saw was ambitious plans in each of the cities to green them up. Impressively, this was not just planting new street trees (although that was part of it too) but also included getting biodiversity back into each city. Unmown native grasses and groundcovers, lizard and insect hotels, and cities competing with each other as who could most quickly “de-pave”. It was inspiring and beautiful to see.

Arriving back home it was so great to see the community driving similar actions in Fremantle. Seeing how White Gum Valley Verges have transformed the corner of Minilya Ave and Stevens Street is inspiring.

I hope we can see WA begin to take up many of these things. Slowing our streets, making bike riding safe for all ages, and ensuring we continue to lead the way in sustainable developments.

Iti s time for greater Perth to make many of the changes that we are seeing in the world’s best and most sustainable cities.

I now hope to use many of these examples to drive much-needed change in the rest of Perth too. As one of the longest and most unsustainable cities on the planet, a change in direction in greater Perth is desperately needed. It can be done as these wonderful cities show.


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