Australia Needs to Increase Green Cover to Fight Urban Warming

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Australia’s major cities Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, will suffer scorching heat due to the receding green cover, the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, and climate change. The ABC news article shares findings from the report, Temperature Check: Greening Australia’s Warming Cities, commissions by the Australian conversation Foundation.

The report finds that the lack of vegetation is causing heat islands and green spaces in major cities in the last decade, except for Hobart, considered the country’s greenest capital, has declined.  Hobart city shows an increase in vegetation by just 1 per cent between 2013 and 2020.

Vegetation plays a vital role in adapting to and mitigate the rising temperatures in Australia. The country needs to immediately start planning to increase its green cover to avoid heatwave impacts by 2060 to 2080, especially for these three cities: Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Otherwise, temperature increases would make them liveable, according to the report. Sydney’s temperature could reach 62°C from the combined effect of the UHI, lack of vegetation, and climate change.

The report also points to construction materials like dark asphalt and steel to the urban heat island effect because it absorbs more heat than natural materials.

Green cover of Australian cities

Brisbane is the greenest city among the three cities in 2020 with 54% green cover, Melbourne with 23 %, and Sydney 34%.  But all three lost green cover between 2013 and 2020, and even with an 0.8% drop equals 570 AFL football field, the article says.  

The article also mentioned cities like Darwin and Perth with a green cover decrease by 33% and Adelaide by 27%.

Poorer areas are most at risk of extreme temperatures

The report revealed a “heat gap” between Australia’s poor and wealthy areas. Poor areas have less green space and vegetation than wealthy suburbs, typically due to buildings’ structure and the layouts and design of the areas that trap more heat.

The article compared two areas in Sydney, the Blacktown City and the affluent Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Blacktown has 22% vegetation cover while Sydney’s Northern Beaches has 63%.

The difference in size vegetation cover will affect the heat coming from their infrastructures. Blacktown’s temperature will increase to 5.8C, while Sydney’s Northern Beaches will only have a 1.1C temperature increase.

Planting for the Future

Logan, a Brisbane city, commits to revegetation. For cutting down trees, developers have to pay an offset fee to the council, and councils use the amount to revegetate and restore areas damaged farming, thereby restoring their environmental value.  

The council does not merely replace a mature tree with a large canopy with saplings because of their enormous value but also make sure that they are growing and replacing these canopies.

Gayle Dallaston, a resident of Logan city, shows her community how to raise resilience and mitigate the effects of heat. She is optimising the use of her verge space by converting it into a garden.

Planting trees and plants can provide more shade and helps to cool off the areas. She says that using every bit of space for vegetation can help cool the area and encourage residents to check their local council rules regarding verge spaces.

To read the entire report, click the link below:

Source Citation:

Zillman, S. (11, March 2021). Australians face a hotter future if our cities don’t do more to cool ‘heat islands’, report finds. ABC Net. Retrieved from


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