Tree cover in Australia’s capital cities is declining, with Hobart and Canberra the only capital cities that showed more vegetation in 2020 than in 2013.
Temperature check: Greening Australia's warming cities, by Monash University researchers and released today by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), finds:
“Heatwaves kill more Australians than any other natural disaster and these will get more severe as our climate continues to change,” said report co-author Dr Lucy Richardson from Monash University.
“Protecting and expanding urban vegetation is good for human health and wellbeing, reduces heat-related deaths, creates jobs and helps combat climate change by absorbing more carbon dioxide from the air.
“Our research shows increasing urban vegetation will become essential for our three largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – to reduce serious heatwave impacts by 2060-2080.
“Natural infrastructure takes time to establish to its maximum effectiveness, so acting early is critical for meeting future needs.”
ACF’s campaigns director Paul Sinclair said Australia’s national environmental law was ineffectual in preventing the destruction of native trees that cool cities and provide critical habitat for wildlife.
“In the first 17 years that Australia had a national environment law, 20,212 hectares of urban threatened species habitat – that’s 11,400 MCG footy grounds – was destroyed.
“Decisions made by Australian governments in the coming months will either lock in permanent and escalating damage to the ecological systems that sustain human health and livelihoods, or they will promote a healthier, fairer and greener world.”
The Monash research is the first study to examine the cumulative effects of future climate change and the UHI effect at local government level across Australia’s three largest cities.
Read the full report, Temperature check: Greening Australia's warming cities
Read more about Solutions for a hot city
Amended on 15 April to take account of revised data relating to vegetation cover in Canberra.