What Melbourne could look like in 2040

More than half the world’s population now lives in a city, and carbon emissions from them are estimated to be as high as 87 per cent. But if we did things differently, what would Australian cities look like in the year 2040?
Nanjing Night Net

Melbourne University, University of NSW and Swinburne University researchers have attempted to model what four Australian cities – Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth – would look like if a drastic attempt was made to slash pollution by 80 per cent.

The answer is: very different.

The researchers behind the report, to be released by Melbourne University on Wednesday, came up with four possible scenarios if such a big reduction in emissions were to happen. Clean-tech corporate living

Artist’s: Impression supplied by Melbourne University

A clean and efficient city where business is responsible for driving emission reductions. Carbon savings come from changing the energy production systems, increasing efficiency and a bigger service sector. But a downside might be the privatisation of many urban spaces people are accustomed to using, such as public parks, and an increase in homelessness and poverty. Planned regulated living

Artist’s: Impression supplied by Melbourne University

A city of planned order, with substantial intervention from government in planning through tighter regulations. Carbon savings would come from public investment in renewable energy storage, public production of biofuel, achieving more compact, interconnected cities and improving public transport. But the downside would be layers of new rules some would find oppressive. Networked entrepreneurial living

Artist’s: Impression supplied by Melbourne University

Corporate interests have less influence, but the city lowers its emissions from more peer-to-peer trading and the use of things like transport, with the economy focused on local small business and freelancers working from home and public spaces. Downsides? High levels of consumption remain and there is a lack of security for many. Community balanced living

Artist’s: Impression supplied by Melbourne University

A city of low consumption that promotes a socially and environmentally meaningful life, with a focus on liveability, face-to-face social interactions and alternative enterprises like co-operatives. Less consumption would lead to less pollution – but the economy would see a massive reduction in infrastructure investment in areas like public transport.

The project has run since 2014, and has now worked with more than 200 experts in energy, the environment and planning. Influential figures to be consulted on the project include scientist Tim Flannery and Melbourne University urban policy professor Brendan Gleeson.

Professor Chris Ryan is the director of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab at Melbourne University. He said the project showed what could be worked towards and what should be avoided. Researchers could not predict the future, he said, “but we can design a future that we want, and with wide community engagement we can create pathways that could get us [there]”.

More than 30 experts will meet in Melbourne on Wednesday to discuss developing plans for low carbon cities in Australia.

You can read the report here.

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