Shortlisted project 4°C Cooler – Using green infrastructure to build a climate resilient Melbourne

Melbourne , Australia

In 2010 the city of Melbourne appointed a new Urban Landscape Team to produce a Green Infrastructure Program to cope with a difficult future climate and maintain its economic prosperity and liveability.

Between 1995 and 2009, the city of Melbourne suffered extreme hot weather resulting in severe drought, water shortage and heat waves that killed several hundred people. The immediate response of the city was to plan a 90% reduction in potable water use. This included cutting irrigation support to the city's urban forests and a plan to remove 40% of the city's trees. Ironically, this solution underestimated the value of green spaces and ecosystem support which are critical to climate change mitigation.

Realizing the need for a more strategic long-term strategy, in 2010 the city appointed a new Urban Landscape Team. The team produced the open space strategy and the urban forest strategy. Since 2010, forty million dollars have been invested in related initiatives including urban forests and shrubbery; green space and rain water harvesting; permeable paving and protection of waterways; and wetlands. The goal is to cool the city by 4 degrees Celsius and to lower energy use for cooling. 15,000 trees have been planted, 40 streets retrofitted to improve permeability, and an in-road storm water harvesting system started. A four-year citizen's engagement programme educates and mobilizes citizens.

The city of Melbourne provides the bulk of the funding while the regional and federal governments have also contributed. Other partners include the universities of Melbourne and Victoria for related research; and the media for public awareness.

Shortlisted project

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2014. Learn more about the award.


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City information
City
Melbourne

Size and population development
2011: 3,961,000; 1990: 3,117,000; 2025: 4,962,000; 2010-2015: +1.71%/year

Population composition
world's 3rd largest Greek speaking population (city level), very diverse ethnic composition

Main functions
Capital City of the state of Victoria, leading financial centre in Australia, renowned for performing and visual arts; Melbourne is among the most livable cities in the world according to the Economist Intelligence Unit and also one of the most expensive cities.

Main industries / business
highly diversified; finance, manufacturing, IT, research, tourism

Political structure
governance of Melbourne is divided between the government of Victoria and the 26 cities and five shires that make up the metropolitan area; local councils

Administrative structure
31 local government areas or municipalities, hundreds of suburbs; 54 electoral districts, 23 divisions (national and regional elections etc.)

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Background and objectives

The goal of the initiative is to invest in green infrastructure to create "a city within a forest" so that Melbourne can increase and enhance ecosystem service provision. The desired outcome is to cool Melbourne’s summertime temperatures by 4°C. This will provide multiple socio-economic benefits, most importantly increasing the health and wellbeing of the population, and it will create climate resilience for Melbourne.

Climate change science is clearly showing that Melbourne will continue to experience more droughts, heatwaves and flood events into the future. In addition to this, Melbourne is becoming the fastest growing city in Australia. It is obvious that the City needs to respond strategically with vision to ensure that Melbourne can cope with a difficult future climate and maintain its economic prosperity and liveability.

In 2010 the City Council appointed a new team called the Urban Landscapes team to respond to these issues. The Urban Landscapes team released two strategies putting forward a strong vision and plan for the City – the Open Space Strategy and the Urban Forest Strategy.

To implement the goals and vision of the strategies, the Urban Landscapes team have developed a Green Infrastructure Program. Green infrastructure includes the assets that can directly provide ecosystem services or support the provision of ecosystem services and increase the climate resilience of our cities.

Assets include:  

- Urban forests: trees and vegetation  

- Green spaces: parks, gardens, reserves, greenways  

- Living green roofs and walls  

- Stormwater and rainwater harvesting tanks, permeable paving  

- Waterways and wetlands

Implementation

In 2010, the City of Melbourne developed and endorsed two key public policy documents to guide the future development of the city, the Urban Forest Strategy and the Open Space Strategy. Key actions include :

  • Doubling the municipal canopy cover from 20% to 40%.
  • Increasing the permeability of the city.
  • Expanding the stormwater harvesting network to capture 50% of required water.
  • Expanding the green space network by 7.6%.

Mebourne's new perspective is to consider green infrastructure as the city’s most important and vital infrastructure is being applied in policy, strategy, research planning and implementation.  

Policy and strategy:    

  1. Urban Forest Strategy - doubling the municipal canopy cover from 20% to 40% and expanding the stormwater harvesting network to capture 50% of required water.
  2. Open Space Strategy - increasing the permeability of the city and expanding the green space network by 7.6%.

Planning:    

  1. Melbourne has developed 7 Urban forest Precinct Plans to guide tree planting for the next 10 years.
  2. Melbourne's ‘Growing Green Guidelines’ is Australia’s first comprehensive technical reference guide for constructing green roofs, walls, and facades in a city context.

Implementation:    

  1. The City has planted 15,000 new trees since 2010 and is planting 3000 new trees each year.
  2. Investing $250,000 for passive irrigation systems in parks.
  3. Investing $5 million for streetscape adaptation to retrofit 40 streets to increase permeability and introduce water sensitive urban design.
  4. Delivering the world’s first in-road stormwater harvesting system at Darling Street.
  5. Investing $20 million to build a stormwater harvesting network from 2011-2014 contributing to securing 25% of the water required for landscape irrigation annually.
  6. A four year citizen engagement program to develop public awareness about the impacts of drought on the urban forest.
  7. Delivering the 200m² green roof – ‘The Venny’.
  8. Investing $5 million for Errol Street Park which involved expanding green space by converting a street into a park.

Research and partnership    

  1. The joint research with the University of Melbourne, using dendrochronology techniques to understand the impacts of climate change on Melbourne’s trees, is the first of its kind for a city.
  2. The ‘Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Model’ will, as Australia’s first city climate decision making tool, enables the City to use local data and make strategic decisions about the locations of green infrastructure interventions for the municipality.
  3. The ‘Assessing the economic value of green infrastructure’ research in partnership with Victoria University, State and other local governments will enable Melbourne to develop an innovative framework to assess the true economic value of green infrastructure, including the value of ecosystem service and health benefits that have been traditionally neglected.
  4. The Elm Genetic Diversity Program was the first in Australian cities to engage citizen foresters in collecting local scientific data for our future landscape management.
Financing and resources

In 2010 the City Council appointed a new team called the Urban Landscapes team to lead the initiative. The initiative has cost $40 million to implement to date. The City of Melbourne has supported the initiative with $30 million from 2010-2014 and has committed to on-going funding for the initiative. Melbourne has been supported by the Australian Federal Government and the Victorian State Government who both provided a $5 million grant.

Results and impacts

The initiative aims to achieve a 4ºC cooling of the City of Melbourne’s summertime temperatures by 2040. This will provide multiple benefits for the city including:

  • Climate resilience to extreme heat, increased temperatures, drought and flooding.
  • Increased community health and wellbeing through the provision of healthier public spaces and more green spaces for activity.
  • Lower energy use for cooling and lower carbon emissions as a result.
  • Increased biodiversity.
  • Lower air pollution levels.

The outcomes achieved so far include :

  • A stormwater harvesting network built by the City of Melbourne. The network is now contributing to securing 25% of the water required for landscape irrigation annually by capturing rainfall. This network will provide Melbourne with water security in a cost effective manner, even during future droughts.
  • The City has planted 15,000 new trees since 2010 and retrofitted 40 streets to increase permeability and introduce water sensitive urban design.
  • They have built the world’s first in-road stormwater harvesting system at Darling Street.
  • Melbourne has developed a four year citizen engagement program to develop public awareness about the impacts of drought on the urban forest.
  • The City has invested $5 million in Errol Street Park to expand the green space network, converting a street into a park.
Barriers and challenges

The obstacles that the City faced were multi-faceted:    

  • Finance was challenging since the initiative is the first of its kind, requiring investment at a municipality-wide scale.
  • Building community awareness and moving away from the aesthetic values of green infrastructure to ecosystem service values and other social and economic benefits was a challenge.
  • Melbourne began with a knowledge gap on how we move from the holistic strategies to cohesive implementation.
  • The City had to shift away from traditional practices focused on grey infrastructure.  

To overcome the challenges, Melbourne:

  • Partnered intensively with the State and Federal governments for co-funding.
  • Co-designed key strategies with the local community in tandem with a four-year citizen engagement program to develop public awareness.
  • Advocated to the wider community and the industry regularly through media, workshops, and forums to push the public agenda on green infrastructure.
  • Worked closely with research bodies, gaining technical support to successfully inform and track the implementation.
Lessons learned and transferability

To achieve the 4°C degree cooling effect, a city needs a diverse, healthy and resilient urban forest to maximize its ecosystem functions. For that, Melbourne has developed a suite of urban forest health management programs. This includes the ‘Urban Forest Diversity Guidelines’ utilising a scientifically-based matrix to support the selection of appropriate trees for each street typology. The selection matrix and list are also scheduled to be reviewed and updated by 2015.

To support the urban forest canopy cover, Melbourne has built a stormwater harvesting network, which is now contributing to securing 25% of the water required for landscape irrigation annually by capturing rainfall. Even during future drought, this network will provide the city with water security in a cost effective manner.

A 4 year community engagement plan has been developed and communities have been invited to co-design our Urban Forest Precinct Plans.

Melbourne has also trialled a range of innovative approaches to raise the public awareness around the urban forest, including:

  1. The urban forest design competition which successfully raise the public awareness around urban forest in the City.
  2. The interactive "urban forest visual" website which not only map each individual tree in relation to its species and health, but also enables the community to establish/express their personal attachment to individual trees. 
  3. The "Triage" whereby the City of Melbourne commissioned two artists to turn a vandalised dead tree into a victorious street art, promoting the importance of our urban forest. 

Since 2010, Melbourne has secured investment of $40 million from the Council and in partnerships with the State and the Federal government. Besides the on-going dedicated budget from the Council, Melbourne has also progressed in a planning scheme amendment introducing the ‘open space contribution framework’ ensuring private sector developments financially contribute to green infrastructure provision.

The City of Melbourne understands the need for scientific proof to drive the public and political agenda towards long term investment on green infrastructure. Hence, they have worked with the Victoria University on developing an economic framework to assess the economic value of green infrastructures.

The initiative contributes to the City Of Melbourne’s reputation as a bold, visionary and sustainable city. It also enhances Melbourne’s reputation as the most liveable city in the world. The work has been awarded the:    

  • United Nations Association of Australia 2013 Award for ‘Best Specific Environmental Initiative’
  • Banksia Foundation Australia Climate Adaptation Award 2013
  • Finalist for the 2014 C40 Cities International Cities Award Category for Climate Change Adaptation

This initiative was inspired by other green initiatives across the world- Melbourne looked at the greening of Singapore and the green roof program in Chicago. Melbourne's work has now inspired many other municipalities around Australia including Brisbane, Darwin and Perth, as well as 12 Victorian Councils. Melbourne regularly shares its knowledge and project experiences with multiple local governments.

References

- Melbourne, Australia: 4°C Cooler – Using green infrastructure to build a climate resilient and prosperous Melbourne, Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation, http://cms.guangzhouaward.org/template/view/id/2209/type/content/template_id/87.html (accessed 13 March 2016)

4°C Cooler – Using green infrastructure to build a climate resilient and prosperous Melbourne, Urban Innovation Database, http://bit.ly/1Mj0XcI (accessed 13 March 2016)


External links / documents