City of Sydney CEO on City’s commitment to climate action

This summer, Government News will be speaking to CEOs of local councils on their lessons and highlights of 2021 and their upcoming plans and projects for 2022.

This week’s conversation is with the CEO of City of Sydney Monica Barone, who took up her role in 2006.

She has overseen the development and implementation of Sustainable Sydney 2030, the City’s long-term strategy for Sydney’s CBD and surrounding villages, and helped establish Design Advisory and Public Art Advisory Panels.

What are your lessons and highlights from 2021?

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted our strengths, but also our vulnerabilities. Despite the challenges and setbacks we faced in 2021, we should be very proud that the Australian public sector has been able to respond with speed and compassion. All three levels of government have worked together to provide the health response and economic support our communities have required.

Monica Barone

At the City of Sydney, the effort we put into building relationships over many years has helped us respond quickly to people in need.

The economic impacts of the pandemic meant that many people in our local area have experienced food insecurity for the first time, so the City of Sydney has invested more than $3 million in donations and grants to support food relief efforts.

This has brought about a partnership between 60 agencies and businesses to work on a collective food response.

With the City as coordinator, this partnership has provided more than 600,000 meals, 60,000 food hampers and $40,000 worth of food vouchers to vulnerable residents since March 2020. More than $112,000 in additional funding was raised through the Lord Mayor’s #feedsydneyappeal for OzHarvest.

This fantastic work was achieved by establishing and strengthening networks and referral pathways, and sharing resources, knowledge and experience. A similar approach was used to support testing and vaccination hubs in our vulnerable communities.

Since the pandemic began, we’ve also provided an additional $16 million in grants and activations to support our business community – and this will continue well into next year. Working with our community to support the health and economic recovery of the City of Sydney has been a highlight for me throughout this difficult time.

What are you most looking forward to in 2022?

I’m looking forward to building on the enhanced relationships we have established and doing an even better job of partnering with our community to deliver what our city needs.

The City of Sydney has always invested in building social capital through our extensive grants programs and we are now keen to take this further by developing a community wealth building policy that will help us create a fairer and more equitable city.

We have also recently adopted a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan and I’m excited about the significant plans we have to improve results for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

“Working with our community to support the health and economic recovery of the City of Sydney has been a highlight for me throughout this difficult time.”

What are your big projects and plans for 2022?

In 2022, we’ll be focusing on transforming our dense inner city to become greener and safer, with the civil and social infrastructure needed to support our growing population.

New projects include increasing our tree canopy and green cover, revitalising open space, making pedestrian and cycling improvements and doing everything we can to create more affordable housing.

What do you think will be your biggest challenges for 2022?

The biggest challenge for all of us in 2022 will continue to be climate action.  Since the start of Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s administration in 2004, climate change has been the City of Sydney’s number one issue.

We have taken significant action and achieved a lot that we are proud of; our organisation is now powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity, we have improved energy and water efficiency across our property portfolio and have installed nearly 7,000 LED streetlights, solar panels on roofs and recycled water treatment infrastructure.

“[The pandemic has] shown us how connected we all are and how important it is to work together to ensure that when challenges strike, no one is left behind.”

However, there is still so much to do. We are now turning our attention to adaptation and resilience and I’m proud to continue chairing the Resilient Sydney steering committee – this project, hosted by the City of Sydney, works with all 33 councils across metropolitan Sydney to improve the collaboration required for Sydney to adapt and become more resilient in the face of the climate crisis and other citywide challenges.

How will the pandemic change the way you’re going to do things in 2022?

The pandemic has had several major impacts: it’s accelerated our approach to flexible work; it’s reinforced our approach to collaborating and co-designing solutions with our community; and it’s reinforced the need for comprehensive disaster planning and recovery.

But most of all, it’s shown us how connected we all are and how important it is to work together to ensure that when challenges strike, no one is left behind – that we are truly a city for all.

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One thought on “City of Sydney CEO on City’s commitment to climate action

  1. Georges River Council would like us to think that climate change is its number one issue. However, it’s behind schedule on its climate change adaptation plan and other planned environmental actions.

    Its very first planned action within three years was to adopt and implement an Environmental Resilience Strategy for Council services by June 2021, commencing in 2019-20. Wow. Yet here we are in 2022 and the Council is still developing the strategy…or is it? Last year, to save money, the Council decided to defer this operational project, in other words to not include it in the 2021/22 budget. Mind you, the strategy has since been renamed the Environmental Resilience Action Plan, so hopefully we might get to see some real action soon.

    The council’s second planned action, to reduce energy use at the top 10 Council energy using sites through its Energy Management Plan, is also behind schedule. It’s worth noting that this plan has never been presented to a council meeting and has only been approved by the Executive Team…and this plan doesn’t come for free. When I asked for a copy I was advised I would need to lodge a GIPA application.

    The council’s third planned action, to implement the Urban Forest Strategy, has been completed, though this also involved some name changing (to the Tree Management Policy).

    The council’s fourth planned action, to identify actions required to reduce the risks from climate change impacts on Council assets, is also behind schedule. Statewide Mutual conducted a Climate Change Risk Assessment in July 2019 and identified actions which Council should take to minimise the impacts of climate change. It facilitated a workshop in March 2020 to assist Council with the development of a Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Yet here we are nearly two years later and no plan.

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