Environment and Cities Minister Greg Hunt’s plan to increase tree cover in Australian cities to offset the impact of heatwaves and improve human health and quality of life is a welcome step towards making cities better places to live, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.
“Despite Australians’ romanticisation of the outback we are among the most urbanised populations on a planet where more people now live in cities than anywhere else,” said ACF’s Campaigns Director Dr Paul Sinclair.
“Trees are natural air-conditioners in cities, where bitumen and dark-roofed houses attract and radiate the sun’s heat.
“The 12 million Australians living on the ocean side of the Great Dividing Range are dependent on water captured in its forested hills and mountains then released into rivers and transported to cities and towns.
“Water from the range helps our cities cope with heatwaves by keeping parks and gardens green and cool.
“We welcome Minister Hunt’s aim for more trees in Australian cities and urge him to take these three further steps to make our cities cooler, better spaces.
“One, develop a national strategy for sustainable and resilient cities that includes requirements for green space, tree cover, efficient buildings and sustainable transport, and that ties in with relevant state and local government initiatives.
“Two, update Infrastructure Australia’s mandate so it can no longer ignore the value of our natural infrastructure – forests, rivers and wetlands.
“Three, we need to get serious about strong national laws to curb climate pollution, because under a business-as-usual climate change scenario Australian cities lose many of the qualities that make them good places to live.”