Melbourne is a city of five million people. Since 2013, we have reached extreme heat levels over 42 degrees Celsius every year in Summer apart from 2017 (when it was only 38 degrees!). Melbourne Water is planning for a sea level rise of 0.8 meters by 2100. Plan Melbourne 2050 (key state government plan) is based on Melbourne becoming hotter and drier, facing more periods of extreme heat and drought, reductions in annual rainfall and increases in intense rainfall events, and an increased risk of extreme weather events such as flood and bushfire.
In this context, our role as the foundation for Melbourne is to fund innovative solutions and to support collaborations that will accelerate change. It is also to grow our knowledge as a community, so we make smart decisions about a climate resilient future. Funding research and knowledge sharing is one of the tools in the philanthropy toolbox.
Starting with the critical importance of a city’s sustainable food system.
We have funded FoodPrint Melbourne at The University of Melbourne for more than six years. FoodPrint Melbourne has mapped Melbourne’s food bowl, including the peri-urban fringe and identified stressors such as fire, drought and flood, loss of soil quality and loss of farmland due to over development. The first report produced was a Roadmap for a resilient and sustainable Melbourne foodbowl and FoodPrint Melbourne is now going deeper in assessing the resilience of the city’s food system to these stressors. Melbourne currently meets 80 per cent of its fruit and vegetable needs from within the peri-urban fringe so there is a lot at stake.
FoodPrint Melbourne is an extensive collaboration with other partners including the City of Melbourne, the Melbourne Food Alliance, Open Food Network, ten metropolitan and urban fringe local governments, FoodBank, and Victorian Council of Social Services.
The impact of this work has been profound in influencing planning within state and local governments. FoodPrint Melbourne resources are publicly available.
Protecting agricultural land and support agricultural production was included in Plan Melbourne 2017-2020: Policy 1.1.1: Agricultural land in green wedges and peri-urban areas should be retained for productive use so it is not permanently lost. Nationally, FoodPrint Melbourne has also raised awareness and inspired a similar project in Perth and potentially Brisbane.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also funded Moving Feast, a network of food focused social enterprises working together to respond to the urgent need for food when has unemployment peaked during lockdowns.
Another basic need in a city is housing
We work extensively in increasing the supply of affordable housing and, since applying the climate lens, have added energy efficient and climate safe requirements to all affordable housing capital project that we fund. We demand high energy efficiency ratings and well-located sites. For example, in the Affordable Housing Challenges, where we partner with local government that provide a site and community housing NGOs, we assess proposals for donated land based on site location criteria developed by The University of Melbourne through the Affordable Housing Hallmark Initiative. This measures proximity to shops, medical services, schools, public transport, green space and work opportunities.
This work has resulted in HART (Housing Access Rating Tool), which is publicly available and has been used by the State Government to inform social and affordable housing developments.
This approach links with the 20-minute neighbourhood concept, which is all about ‘living locally’ and is also contained in the State Government’s Plan Melbourne 2050.
We need climate safe homes
As well as well-located housing, we need housing that is energy efficient and weather-proof. Another housing initiative is Climate Safe Homes which is addressing both policy change in construction standards and projects to demonstrate how to achieve better energy efficiency standards and to ensure better weather protection, especially from heatwaves, for low-income households.
Grant partner Renew, is working on policy change and has built a national coalition of more than 65 organisations to advocate for improved minimum energy performance and climate resilience of Australian homes in the National Construction Code, which will benefit more than 50 per cent of houses by 2050. The Foundation funded a new website and is continuing to support this work.
Building our community’s climate resilience
The health impacts of climate change on Melbourne are already being felt. The two worst heatwaves on record occurred during the Australian Summers of 2009 and 2014 and in January 2019, Australia recorded its hottest-ever month on record.1
We initiated the HotSpots program three years ago with three community organisations working with vulnerable populations (culturally diverse and older people) in disadvantaged areas and heat vulnerable areas of Melbourne. We applied the Monash University Heat Vulnerability Index which overlaid data on temperature in suburbs with socio economic factors to identify the pilot sites. The community service organisations are supporting older people to connect with a local support person who will assist them during a heatwave to get to somewhere safe and are developing increased access to cooler public places as well as creating peer-to-peer support networks for young people. This includes working with other stakeholder groups such as businesses and religious groups.
This project has now expanded to two more sites and we are also funding a Melbourne wide project identifying other high risk heatwave sites across Melbourne. This can be scaled-up further. The overlap between suburbs which are socially disadvantage and vulnerable to heat is stark in Melbourne. The Hot Spots experience was shared internationally via F20.
We have just kicked off a Climate Resilience in the West initiative with key partners to go deeper in this work. The Collaborative will house information for community groups wanting to work on community led climate resilience. We will have more to say on this as the Hub is created.
We recognise the importance of civic participation in building resilience
Regen Melbourne is a network of more than 60 organisations and 900 individuals exploring a regenerative future for our city. Over the last six months they have begun a community engagement process that has led to the report Towards a Regenerative Melbourne. Utilising the Doughnut Economics City Portrait methodology developed by Dr Kate Raworth, Regen examines the city’s ecological ceiling and social foundations, together with this unique community engagement process, they have developed a new compass for Melbourne and the process continues to grow. Anyone can join the conversation online and access interesting resources and reports.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nation, said: “Cities are where the climate battle will largely be won or lost.” Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation is committed to playing our part in winning this battle.
Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer
1 Victoria, Heatwaves and Climate Change, Environment Victoria; Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne.