This was the bleak picture painted by the city’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, when she announced the results of one of a report released at the launch of new environmental body Sustainable Sydney 2030.

If Sydney’s love affair with the car continues at the current rate, by 2030 air pollution could kill one Sydneysider every four hours – eight times the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents.

The report attributes 600-1400 deaths to air pollution each year at present and with traffic expected to increase by 50% by 2030, that figure is likely to rise to almost 2,400 over the next 20 years.

It also highlights Sydney’s disproportionately large carbon footprint, rising congestion and potential water shortages in the long term.

“Economically, Sydney is still thriving,” said Ms Moore.

“But, in common with the rest of the world, we face an unprecedented challenge with global warming leading to climate change – a challenge that needs to be addressed now. We know now, for example, that Sydney’s environmental footprint is equivalent to 49% of New South Wales.

“If we continue as we are, and do nothing, by 2031, it will have reached 95% of NSW – unsustainable for Sydney, for NSW and for the nation.

“Just as previous generations had the imagination and daring to think for the future, giving us a rail network, the Harbour Bridge and an Opera House, we now have the duty and opportunity to think – and act – boldly for the benefit of future generations.

“These projections paint a disturbing image of where Sydney could be in 2030 if we don’t ask the big questions now and seek innovative and environmentally sustainable solutions,” Ms Moore said.

“These predictions are for a worst case scenario and we will work to ensure it never happens. It’s only by considering what could happen in the future that we can adequately prepare and make sure it doesn’t happen.

“The City is launching Sustainable Sydney 2030. This is a landmark project designed to draw on all Sydneysiders and provide a joint community, government and business response to ensure Sydney remains sustainable. It will involve an extensive public consultation process and we will speak to residents, workers, visitors, businesses and the cultural sector, as well as Australian and International experts.

“The end result of Sustainable Sydney 2030 will be a series of visionary projects and programs to shape Sydney for generations to come.

“Sustainable Sydney 2030 is a way to achieve the kind of city we want Sydney to be within the next generation. Clearly, air pollution is going to be an important element, as well as providing long-term sustainable transport solutions.

“This is a collaborative project that requires support and input from all sectors of our community. It will involve the most extensive public consultation the City has undertaken and we will speak to residents, workers, businesses and visitors as well as Australian and International experts.”

Sam Bond

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