Daegu and Melbourne Tackle Greening, Heat and Climate in Cities Meet Cities

Daegu and Melbourne Tackle Greening, Heat and Climate in Cities Meet Cities

The exchange visits between Melbourne, Australia, and Daegu, South Korea, under the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) Cities Meet Cities initiative have highlighted several key themes in climate action and sustainable urban development. Both cities have made significant strides toward their climate goals, sharing focuses on renewable energy, adaptation to climate change, and water management.

The visits also highlighted challenges that both cities face in their climate action plans. Melbourne, for instance, is focused on overcoming barriers related to the rapid transition to renewables and enhancing resilience to extreme weather, flooding, and urban heat. Meanwhile, Daegu is dealing with the challenges of a densely populated area and industrial complexes that rely heavily on coal energy. This context underscores the urgency of local policies and successful stories to accelerate the energy transition to renewable energy for residential and industrial areas.

Renewable Energy Initiatives

Melbourne has set ambitious targets to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040. This commitment is exemplified through initiatives such as the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) and Power Melbourne. Launched in 2017, MREP was Australia’s first project where a collective of local governments, universities, and corporations purchased renewable energy from a newly built wind farm. This project supplies energy to various public and private entities across Melbourne, opening the potential for operations to be powered entirely by renewable energy. Power Melbourne aims to establish a network of mid-scale batteries throughout the city, enhancing access to renewable energy and supporting the reliability and security of the electricity grid.

Daegu is also determined to become a clean energy self-reliant city. Their strategy includes expanding solar, fuel cell, and liquid natural gas energy sources. The city aims for a 100% electrical energy self-reliance rate by 2030, facilitated by the construction of microgrids and the expansion of solar energy capacity, including rooftop solar panels at industrial complexes. Daegu’s commitment to renewable energy is further evidenced by their citizen-led sunlight power plants, which have seen multiple solar power installations funded by community investments.

The city’s Industrial Complex Solar Power Project aims to build 1.5GW capacity rooftop solar power plants by 2025, expected to reduce emissions by 10%. Additionally, the 1110 Campaign encourages citizens to reduce 10 tons of emissions per year per capita, addressing the significant contribution of household buildings to the city’s emissions.

Darcy Pimblett, Melbourne’s Energy Innovation Lead, praised Daegu’s Solar Citizens project during his visit, stating, “It is fantastic to see Daegu’s successful Solar Citizens project in action. This is a great example of a replicable model that effectively uses available space in the municipality to increase renewable energy generation while also empowering community members to benefit from the energy transition.”

Jeon Eun-soo, a public official from Daegu, expressed his admiration for Melbourne’s approach. He said, “I was amazed by the preparedness of Melbourne for carbon neutrality. The visit was a meaningful occasion for us to learn from Melbourne’s efforts towards achieving Net-Zero by 2050.”

Climate Adaptation and Resilience

Melbourne’s approach to urban greening and water management integrates efforts to combat urban heat and improve resilience to climate change. The city’s Urban Forest Strategy, for example, includes maintaining and expanding its tree population to cool the city and manage stormwater. With 70,000 council-owned trees, Melbourne’s green infrastructure significantly contributes to urban cooling and clean waterways.

The city’s urban greening efforts aren’t just about trees: The Skyfarm project is an urban rooftop farm initiative that integrates green spaces within the local infrastructure, promoting urban agriculture and renewable energy. The Fisherman’s Bend Integrated Water Management project, part of Australia’s largest urban renewal initiative, aims to reduce potable water demand, mitigate flooding, and decrease the urban heat island effect.

The other projects that Melbourne was able to share with Daegu during their Cities Meet Cities visit include Retrofit Melbourne, a comprehensive plan to support commercial building retrofits, aiming to accelerate energy efficiency and reduce emissions in the built environment while protecting people from rising heat levels caused by climate change.

Daegu, as South Korea’s hottest city, has implemented innovative measures to adapt to extreme heat and other climate challenges. The city employs a forest disaster drone surveillance system and a digital twin system for heatwave monitoring, providing cooling support and healthcare for vulnerable groups during extreme weather conditions. The Forest Daegu Project, initiated in 1996, aimed to plant 100 million trees, significantly reducing the impact of heatwaves and enhancing urban green spaces – so far around 60 million trees have been planted, and the city wants to push this by a further 20 million by 2026. These measures are designed to ensure resilience and protect citizens from the adverse effects of climate change.

Cintia Dotto, Melbourne’s Water Sensitive City Lead, upon visiting Daegu as part of GCoM’s Cities Meet Cities noted, “Daegu’s action on climate change adaptation is commendable. Projects that direct support to the community to prepare for heatwaves are among the highlights.”

Daegu’s Sincheon Sewage Treatment Facility treats 680,000m³ of wastewater daily, discharging clean water into the Sincheon River, which enhances urban waterfront spaces. Additionally, the facility integrates renewable energy generation through solar panels and biogas, covering around 20% of its energy needs.

During their visit, Melbourne delegates were shown how the Western Treatment Plant integrates water treatment with environmental conservation. This facility not only processes sewage but also supports a significant migratory bird habitat, marrying water management and biodiversity conservation.

Outcomes and Impact

Krista Milne, Director of Climate Change & Resilience at Melbourne, remarked on the significant learning opportunity provided by Daegu’s visit. “The visit by the delegation from Daegu was highly informative. The City of Melbourne team appreciated the opportunity to learn about Daegu’s advanced bio-energy project and to showcase our innovative renewable energy transition projects. Great relationships were formed which will support the continued exchange into the future.”

Daegu and Melbourne are the first pairing under the GCoM Cities Meet Cities initiative to have completed both planned visits. The initiative is part of continuing efforts to deepen technical support provided to cities by GCoM, and to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices among signatory cities from all regions of the alliance. Many more visits are currently underway, with plenty of insights yet to be shared.

Please contact Simone d’Antonio (sdantonio@globalcovenantofmayors.eu) for more information on the GCoM Cities Meet Cities initiative.

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