sydney-skyline.jpgFor some of Australia’s best-known cities, companies and organizations, this year’s Australia Day will be celebrated, not only with barbecues or beach parties, but also by going ‘green.’

The Australian cities of Sydney and Brisbane last week stepped up their efforts in lowering carbon emissions by joining the United Nations’ Climate Neutral Network (CN Net) , led by the UN Environment Program, which seeks to spur global action to achieve climate neutrality.

With its world-famous Opera House, the “Coathanger” Bridge and the Harbour as its backdrop, Sydney is one of the world’s most spectacular cities. In 2007, Sydney, the largest in the country, became Australia’s first carbon neutral local government, implementing such initiatives as energy-efficient street lighting and creating a network of bicycle paths.

Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said: “The City of Sydney is proud to be the first carbon neutral government in Australia. Though the emissions from the City of Sydney alone are small in terms of state, national and global emissions, we believe that our leadership can influence other governments by demonstrating that change is possible. The Climate Neutral Network is a significant opportunity to provide information and share experiences with a wide audience.”

The ‘good news’ for those combating climate change, says Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, is that it provides a great opportunity for “transforming economies, triggering innovation, sparking human creativity and generating jobs now and in the future.”

Brisbane, the nation’s third most populous city, is seeking to become carbon neutral by 2026, through a variety of ways. Through the Green Heart CitySmart program, Brisbane City Council promotes the use of solar hot water systems after having estimated that traditional hot water systems chew up 28% of household energy consumption. In the area of transport, the city has recently pioneered Australia’s first public bicycle hire program and introduced the “superbus,” a 14.5-metre low-emissions bus capable of carrying up to 98 passengers. The city is also spearheading a 2 million tree-planting project, including 150,000 native seedlings, to be planted to celebrate Brisbane’s 150th anniversary.

Another CN Net participant from Brisbane is Greenfest – a three-day-long grassroots, free-to-the-public, music festival which will kick off on World Environment Day, 5 June. This year’s focus of the event is sharing the passion for a cooler planet and creating awareness about the importance of the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Although not members of CN Net, smaller towns and villages are getting in on the act of going green for Australia Day.

Bankstown Council says it is keeping its 2009 Australia Day celebrations as environmentally friendly as possible, reports, by undertaking a ‘carbon footprint assessment’ of the event and neutralizing the estimated greenhouse emissions by making a donation to the Australian GreenPower renewable energy project. This will  ‘balance out’ the environmental impact of the materials used to transport people and provide food and entertainment.

Happy Australia Day, and here’s to a greener national day in 2010. 

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