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Cr HY William Chan

City of Sydney Independent Councillor

July 2022

Our cities account for almost 80% of global energy consumption and 70% of carbon emissions. Cities are at the frontline of the adverse impacts of climate change. To achieve net-zero cities by 2050, we must focus on action-leadership, not just thought-leadership.”

Contact details

Email: [email protected]


William is an Independent Councillor with the City of Sydney Lord Mayoral team, but he wears many other hats as well - as an architect, a Convocation and University Medallist, a headline TEDx speaker and a recent UN Fellow. William also leads the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers community in Sydney, driving next-gen solution building, policymaking and systems change as part of the Davos Lab.

Elected to Council in 2021, William highlighted that investments in renewables and grid decarbonisation are required, as well as Circular economy applications such as design for disassembly, product as service models, and plug-and-play technologies have to be delivered for our cities. Bushfire and earthquake resilience through education, and Indigenous Aboriginal knowledge must be adopted to disrupt ‘business as usual’.

Our built environment creates tangible, real-world impact. But we need ambitious government policies to accelerate this net-zero transition, alongside the development of whole-of-life impact, including embodied carbon and not just operational carbon. We need to demonstrate the value of adaptive reuse, advocating against the ‘disposable’ architecture seen in Australia.”

William says, despite challenges at other levels of government, Sydney has become a global leader in climate action – drastically reducing emissions, investing in renewables and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. Tackling climate change and delivering on resilience and sustainability will ensure Sydney remains one of the world’s most vibrant and liveable cities, he proudly said. He is excited to be involved with Sydney’s long-term strategic plan, Sustainable Sydney 2030-2050, which places the community’s response to the climate emergency at the heart of their vision.

The City’s plan to keep Sydney on track towards a zero-carbon and regenerative economy includes;

  • Achieving net zero emissions by 2035;
  • Reduction to 170 litres a person a day of residential potable water use, and reduction by 10% of non-residential potable water use by 2030;
  • 90% recycling and recovery of residential waste, commercial and industrial waste, and construction and demolition waste by 2030;
  • Reduction by 15% of waste generated by each person by 2030, and;
  • Minimum overall green cover of 40%, including 27% tree canopy cover, by 2050.

We’re empowering our citizens to reduce their environmental footprint through consumption. We’re ambitious about proactively supporting the community to be resilient and adaptive to climate change impacts. This includes listening to, learning from, and respecting First Nations people’s knowledge and their relationship with our environment.”

Green City. Water City.

The Green City vision delivers a Sydney that is cooled naturally by green cover and tree canopy, helping support community wellbeing and amenity. This is achieved by green avenues, the laneway commons and expanding Sydney’s lungs at Moore Park. Through urban planning controls, it will be simpler for new developments to include greening as part of the approvals process.

The Water City vision unlocks the potential of the city’s most valuable public asset, Sydney Harbour. By rehabilitating, protecting and managing the harbour and waterways, success will be a clean and swimmable harbour for all, becoming a symbol of a healthy water ecosystem.”

Construction and built environment sectors are responsible for nearly 40% of all carbon emissions. William sees that together with architects and local governments, there is an opportunity to reform the National Construction Code for 2025. 

Upward pressure for the implementation of whole-of-life carbon assessments, including embodied carbon, of new developments is needed.”

This, he said, requires leadership and policymaking from local governments to implement mandatory measures at the Development Application (DA) stage. By assessing operational and embodied carbon, across all building typologies, performance benchmarks can be set to be incrementally increased towards zero carbon. Achieving this goal would help to deliver the Better Future that William envisions for Sydney. 

William resides on the Cox Architecture's Board of Management Design Committee, University of Sydney Academic Board and School of Architecture, Design and Planning Board, Executive of Climate Emergency Australia, National Council of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), and City of Sydney's Expert to the Sydney 2050 Citizens Jury.


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