We can be a carbon-neutral nation by 2050, if we just get on with it


Anna Skarbek, Monash University and Anna Malos, ClimateWorks Australia

This is part of a major series called Advancing Australia, in which leading academics examine the key issues facing Australia in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election and beyond. Read the other pieces in the series here.


Strong action on climate change is vital if Australia is to thrive in the future. Lack of consensus on climate policy over the past two decades has cost us dearly. It has harmed our natural environment, our international reputation and our economic prospects in a future low-carbon world.

The next two years will be crucial if Australia is to meet its commitment, along with the rest of the world, to limit greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst ravages of global warming.

In 2015, nearly all nations signed the Paris climate agreement. They pledged to limit global warming to well below 2℃ and to reach net zero emissions. By our calculations, Australia needs to reach net zero before 2050 to do its part.

As a first step, Australia has committed to reduce its total emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Under the Paris Agreement it will have to submit progressively stronger targets every five years. Unfortunately, Australia is not yet on track to meet even its comparatively modest 2030 goal.




Read more:
Australia is not on track to reach 2030 Paris target (but the potential is there)


Falling short

Analysis by ClimateWorks Australia found that although Australia’s emissions have fallen by around 11% economy-wide since 2005, emissions have been steadily climbing again since 2013. In 2013 Australia emitted the equivalent of 520 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. By 2016 that had bounced back up to 533 million tonnes.

While some parts of the economy cut emissions at certain times, no sector improved consistently at the rate needed to hit the overall 2030 target.

Emissions are still above 2005 levels in the building, industrial and transport sectors, and only 3% below in the electricity sector, based on 2016 figures, the latest available. The overall fall was mainly delivered by the land sector, thanks to a combination of reduced land clearing and increased forestation. Increased energy efficiency and the growth of renewable energy also made modest contributions.

Unfortunately, progress in reducing emissions has now stalled in most sectors and reversed overall.

How fast should we be cutting emissions?

We calculate that Australia needs to double its emissions reduction progress to deliver on the 2030 target. We will have to triple it to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Hitting net zero by 2050 means going much further than the Coalition government’s 2030 target of 26-28%, or the 45% proposed by federal Labor. Australia would need to cut total emissions by 55% below 2005 levels by 2030 (the middle of the range recommended by the Climate Change Authority) to get there without undue economic disruption.

Fortunately, there are enough opportunities for further emission reductions in all sectors to meet our Paris targets. We can probably do better than that, given the falling costs of many key technologies.

The gap to the 2030 target could be more than covered by further activity in the land sector alone, or by the electricity sector alone, or by the combined potential of the building, industrial and transport sectors. Emission reductions from energy efficiency – through better buildings, vehicles and white goods – can even save money in the long term.

Clearly, not all sectors have the same potential to reduce emissions based on current technological progress, but all have significant room for improvement.

We calculated that:

  • the electricity sector was on track to cut its emissions by 21% by 2030, but could cut them by nearly 70%
  • transport sector emissions are set to be 29% above 2005 levels by 2030, but with projected technology improvements could be 4% below
  • the land sector is set to hit 45% below 2005 levels by 2030, but with more support for planting could be 103% below – well into “negative emissions” territory. The land sector would then be sucking up carbon and making up for emissions from other sectors.

How do we get there?

To ensure a smooth, cost-effective transition to a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050, some sectors will need to do more sooner, to avoid putting too much onus on other sectors where emissions savings are harder and more expensive.

This will require major upgrades to Australia’s current policy settings. Since 2013 Australia’s efforts to cut emissions have focused largely on the land sector via the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and the electricity sector through the Renewable Energy Target. With the ERF due to run out of funds soon and no clear energy policy even as our ageing power stations shut down, policy certainty is urgently needed in both these areas to encourage investors.




Read more:
Australia can stop greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: here’s how


Renewable energy is powering ahead and starting to tap into Australia’s huge potential in clean energy resources. However, ongoing policy support is needed to ensure our energy remains affordable and reliable through the transition.

Despite the importance of the electricity and land sectors, we need emission reductions throughout the economy. Fortunately, there is plenty that Australia can do to cut emissions further, in many different ways:

  • in the land sector through revegetation and forestation
  • in electricity by increasing renewables and phasing out coal
  • in industry by bolstering energy efficiency, fuel switching and reducing non-energy emissions
  • in transport by introducing vehicle emission standards and shifting to electric vehicles and low-carbon fuels
  • in construction by increasing standards for buildings and appliances.

With well-targeted policies across all sectors of the economy, we can get back on track and meet our Paris targets.

Australia’s states and businesses are recognising how much they can and should do. For instance, 80% of Australia’s emissions are in states and territories with goals to reach net zero emissions by 2050, while many large companies and universities are pledging to be carbon-neutral or use 100% renewable energy.

There is more than enough opportunity, but we have to act now.The Conversation

Anna Skarbek, CEO at ClimateWorks Australia, Monash University and Anna Malos, Project Manager, climate and energy policy, ClimateWorks Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Farming in 2050: storing carbon could help meet Australia’s climate goals


Brett Anthony Bryan, CSIRO

Australia’s agricultural lands help to feed about 60 million people worldwide, and also support tens of thousands of farmers as well as rural communities and industries.

But a growing global population with a growing appetite is placing increasing demands on our agricultural land. At the same time, the climate is warming and in many places getting drier too.

Agriculture, and particularly livestock, is currently a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. But new markets and incentives could make storing carbon or producing energy from land more profitable than farming, and turn our agricultural land into a carbon sink.

How might these competing forces play out in changing Australian land use? Our research, published in Global Environmental Change, assesses a range of potential pathways for Australia’s agricultural land as part of CSIRO’s National Outlook.

Changing landscapes

The only constant in landscapes is change. Ecosystems are always changing in response to natural drivers such as fire and flood.

Humans have complicated things. Indigenous Australians manipulated the Australian landscape and climate through burning for millennia, sustaining a population of around 750,000 and underpinning a culture.

European colonisation brought a different and more pervasive change, clearing land, building cities, damming rivers and establishing an increasingly mechanised and industrialised agriculture.

These iconic but changed landscapes inspired the romantic art of Arthur Streeton and poetry of Banjo Paterson among many others — and helped forge a young nation’s identity.

‘Still glides the stream, and shall for ever glide’, 1890. Arthur Streeton. The Art Gallery of NSW describes the painting as ‘an idealised vision of the Yarra River at Heidelberg, with the Doncaster Tower in the middle distance and the Dandenong Ranges beyond’.

Change can happen surprisingly quickly. Often before we know it we’ve gone too far and need to scramble for fixes that are so often costly, slow and ultimately inadequate.

For example, in South Australia, researchers in the early 1960s raised the alarm that the feverish post-war period of soldier resettlement, land clearance and agricultural development threatened entire native plant and animal communities with extinction. The government’s response over the following 30 years was to expand greatly the conservation reserve network and eventually prohibit land clearing.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/embed?mid=zXUWIAKxCpHk.kLpt_wSpBC7U

History repeating?

Agricultural lands produce a range of goods and services. But in many places the focus on agricultural productivity has come at the expense of ecosystems. Biodiversity, soil and water are all on downward trends.

Is the balance right? Opinion varies. Many would say no, and consider the status quo to be stacked strongly against the environment.

Others see agriculture as entering a boom time, driven by growing population and rising food prices. Substantial interest from overseas investors in Australian agricultural land reflects this opportunity.

Parts of Australia’s agricultural land continue to change fast. Lessons hard-learned by South Australia seem to have been forgotten. Rates of land clearance in Queensland are rising again since 2010 after a long-term trend of decline.

In the 1990s, new financial incentives led to the planting of over 1 million hectares of forest in southern Australia. Now a failed business model, many of these plantations are being returned to agriculture.

Demand for more secure sources of energy has generated rapid expansion of coal seam gas and wind power generation, and the development of northern Australia remains a bipartisan priority.

Worldwide, Australia is not alone — many international examples also exist of recent, massive, rapid and accelerating changes in how land is used.

Australia has historically taken a hands-off approach to managing land use change, instead focusing on increasing the productivity and competitiveness of agriculture. Apart from a handful of planning and environmental regulations, the use of land has been subject to minimal governance or strategic direction.

Where to from here?

What is it that Australians really want from our land? We know what we don’t want: wall-to-wall crops, pasture, buildings, gas wells, mines, wind farms or trees.

We can expect healthy debate around the margins, but, in general, diversity, productivity and sustainability seem to be widely valued. Most of us want to leave the place in decent condition for future generations.

Europe has had this conversation and knows what it wants from its landscapes — and it’s not afraid to pay for it (for instance, through agricultural subsidies). A deep aesthetic and cultural heritage is the central objective, with a balance of recreation opportunities, tourism, a clean and healthy environment and high-quality produce all being high priorities.

Once we know what we want, we can work out how to get there.

That’s where science can help. We now have the ability to project changes in land use in response to policy and global change, and the environmental and economic consequences.

CSIRO’s recent National Outlook mapped Australia’s potential future pathways. A companion paper in Nature found that it is possible to achieve strong economic growth and reduce environmental pressure, if we put the right policies in place now. It provides a glimpse of how our rural lands might respond to coalescing future change pressures.

Farming carbon

In our modelling, carbon sequestration in the land sector plays a key role of Australia’s future. Land systems can help with the heavy lifting required to hold global warming to 2℃ as recently agreed in Paris.

There are several factors that could drive this change, including climate, carbon pricing, global food demand and energy prices.

We modelled the economic potential for land use change and its impacts in over 600 scenarios (full data available here), combining a suite of global outlooks and national policy options.

A carbon price, which enables landholders to make money from storing carbon in trees and soils (often much more money than from farming), may increase pressure to shift farmland to restored forests.

Who knows? A pay rise while watching trees grow could be an attractive proposition for our ageing farmers. Complementary biodiversity payments could also help arrest declines in wildlife and help it adapt to climate change.

If we redouble our focus on productivity, by 2050 agriculture will produce more than today, even as farmland contracts. The least productive areas are less able to compete with reforestation and other new land uses, leaving the most efficient agricultural land in production.

But trade-offs are likely. Trees use a lot more water than crops and pasture, so we will need to think carefully about managing water resources.

Economic potential for land use change and sustainability impacts from 2013 to 2050 under national global environmental and economic conditions consistent with 2℃ warming by 2100

Australians care about their land and are more aware than ever about what is happening to it. While we can have some control over the future of our land, and we do exercise this control in certain circumstances (such as urban planning), our long-term approach to rural land has been to let environmental and economic forces play out and let the invisible hand of economics determine what will be.

Given the pace at which change can happen, a smarter approach will be to start the conversation, work out what it is we want from our land, and put the policies and institutions in place to get us there.

The Conversation

Brett Anthony Bryan, Principal Research Scientist, Environmental-economic integration, CSIRO

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Shorten says Australia should have net zero emissions by 2050


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor will commit to the goal of Australia achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and embrace the ambitious target of cutting emissions by 45% on 2005 levels by 2030.

Unveiling the opposition’s policy positions ahead of next week’s international climate conference, Bill Shorten on Friday will condemn the 2030 target the government is taking to Paris as “pathetic”.

He will say that within its first year a Labor government, guided by its 2030 and 2050 goals, will announce an emissions reduction target for 2025.

Australia’s pledge for Paris is to reduce emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030.

The latest announcement further sharply differentiates Labor’s climate stand from the Coalition’s. It has already committed itself to an emissions trading scheme. The 2030 target will be a test for it with the business community.

Shorten says that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is an ambitious goal. “This means by 2050, every tonne of pollution we produce will need to be balanced by sequestration, offsetting or purchasing.”

It “will demand major technological transitions in a range of industries”.

But changing technology, modernising fuels and embracing clean energy does not mean trading away prosperity, he says in his address for the Lowy Institute.

He points to ClimateWorks modelling based on net zero emissions by 2050 that forecasts the Australian economy would still be 150% larger than now. “With the right plan and the right approach, Australia can lower emissions and lift economic growth. We can cut pollution and create jobs,” Shorten says.

He says achieving net zero emissions would require embracing everything from switching transport, industry and buildings to biofuels, gas and carbon-free electricity to reducing agricultural emissions through better land management, farming practices and increased carbon forestry.

Labor will use the Climate Change Authority’s recommendation of a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 on 2005 levels as the basis for its consultations with industry, employers, unions and the community.

“We will undertake this process mindful of the consequences for jobs, for regions and for any impacts on households.

“Our target will work in concert with our 2050 objective, and our strategies for managing transitions within particular sectors.”

Environment spokesman Mark Butler will lead the consultations, starting immediately, and report back by March.

“A 45% baseline reduction would be an ambitious target for Australia, particularly on a per capital basis,” Shorten says.

“But we should not shy away from ambition.”

The government’s own modelling found that the economic impact of a 45% target would be minimal.

Labor would support a pledge and review process every five years, to help Australia track its commitments and respond to international action.

Malcolm Turnbull will attend the start of the Paris conference on Monday. Shorten is also going to Paris.

In a swingeing attack on Turnbull, Shorten says Turnbull “is flying to Paris carrying Tony Abbott’s climate sceptic baggage.

“The prime minister will walk onto the aerobridge with a pathetic target in one hand and an expensive joke of a climate policy in the other.”

“The Abbott-Turnbull 2030 target puts Australia at the back of the international pack. It falls well short of Australia’s obligation to help keep warming below 2 degrees on pre-industrial levels,” Shorten says.

“Under Direct Action, it is taxpayers, not polluters, who pay to reduce emissions at a signifiant cost to the budget.”

Shorten says no-one had delivered a more incisive critique of Direct Action than Turnbull who labelled it “an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing”.

“He had the courage to tell the truth when he was a backbencher, with nothing to lose. Yet now, when power is in his grasp and the evidence is in front of his eyes. He cannot admit what he knows in his heart and head to be true.”

Despite the government’s “accounting chicanery” Australia’s emissions are going up not down, Shorten says.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/5amby-5a834b?from=yiiadmin

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hqks7-5a81fd?from=yiiadmin

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australia can stop greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: here's how


Anna Skarbek, Monash University

To avoid dangerous climate change there is a finite amount of greenhouse gas emissions, in particular CO2, that we can add to the atmosphere – our global carbon budget. If we use our budget wisely, we have until about 2050 to transition to zero net emissions. But how do we get there?

For Australia to play its role, we’ll also need to get to zero net emissions by 2050. In a recently launched website from ClimateWorks, we’ve created an online tool to demonstrate that there are various ways to get there. You can create your own way of getting to zero net emissions by 2050.

Internationally the world has agreed to limit warming to 2C. To keep under this limit, globally we can emit around 1,700 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured in CO2-equivalent) between 2000 and 2050. This would give us a 67% chance of limiting warming to 2C or less.

Just over a third of this budget was already used up between 2000 and 2012, leaving approximately 1,100 billion tonnes – this is the remaining global carbon budget.

Global emissions are currently projected to rise without further actions, putting us on a pathway to exceed this carbon budget and experience temperature rises of 4C or more.

Australia’s carbon budget

The Climate Change Authority has calculated Australia’s equitable share of the global carbon budget as 10.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for the period 2013 to 2050. If we continue to emit at our current rate, we will exceed our carbon budget by 2028 – that’s just 13 years from now.

If we are to live within our carbon budget, we must begin to reduce emissions now. This will allow us to use our remaining budget over a longer period of time and enable a smoother transition to a low carbon Australia. If we delay, the transition will need to be faster, meaning more cost and more disruption.

The following infographic produced by ClimateWorks shows the latest science behind the carbon budget.


ClimateWorks Australia

Balancing our carbon budget

The good news is Australia can balance its carbon budget. Research by ClimateWorks and Australian National University has found that Australia can achieve zero net emissions by 2050 and live within its recommended carbon budget, using technologies that exist today, while still growing the economy.

This pathway relies on four “pillars” of action:

  • Ambitious energy efficiency in buildings, industry and transport

  • Low carbon electricity, either through 100% renewables or a mix of renewables and other technologies

  • Electrification where possible of transport and energy-using equipment in buildings and industry where possible, and elsewhere switching to low carbon fuels

  • Reducing non-energy emissions through improvements in industrial processes and agricultural practices, and offsetting residual emissions through carbon forestry.

Choose your own pathway

This research is explained in our interactive 2050 Pathways website.

Australia is fortunate to have an abundance of energy and natural resources, providing us with a diversity of choice in reducing our emissions. This means that there are many ways Australia could balance its carbon budget.

The online 2050 Pathways Calculator allows users to create their own pathways to net zero emissions by 2050, staying within our carbon budget.

The levels of activity in each area of abatement can be changed from level one (business-as-usual) to level four (maximum reasonably feasible). Users can change the extent to which each emissions reduction opportunity is pursued and see the impact on demand for energy, on energy supply and on greenhouse gas emissions.

On business-as-usual, we’d blow the carbon budget by 2028.
ClimateWorks

As would be expected, increasing the level of effort in some of the opportunities decreases the effort required from other areas of action to stay within the carbon budget.

For example, maximum effort in energy efficiency could enable less reliance on emerging technologies such as geothermal, wave and tidal energy production, or a slower shift away from coal.

Or, if technologies such as batteries or biofuels improved faster than expected, less effort would be required in other areas.

Increasing nuclear in the energy system could help meet the carbon budget.
ClimateWorks

The calculator can help users to understand the limitations, trade-offs and inter-dependencies involved in meeting our carbon budget.

Global action

In Paris later this year, more than 190 countries including Australia will meet to confirm their commitment to reducing emissions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Some countries have already announced their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to emissions reductions.

The European Union has pledged a 40% reduction in domestic emissions by 2030 and the United States has announced a 25-28% reduction by 2025. China has pledged to reduce the emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% by 2030.

Many global businesses are taking the lead through co-ordinated business groupings such as RE100 and We Mean Business.

A few examples:

  • Ikea plans to use 100% renewable energy by 2020, and has 1 billion Euros to tackle climate change, including investing in 700,000 solar panels and 314 wind turbines

  • Google has established agreements to fund over $2 billion in renewable energy projects

  • 100% of Apple’s US operations are powered by renewable energy, with plans to roll this out globally

  • Mars is building a wind farm in Texas that will create enough electricity to power half of all of Mars’ US operations.

Australia’s contribution to balance its share will be reviewed internationally by our allies and trading partners.

An article recently published by the Lowy Institute argued that failure to engage constructively with international climate change negotiations could affect our ability to achieve our national interests in our relations with other countries.

The consequences of not addressing climate change will also be felt at home. Exceeding 2C warming will have serious consequences for our health, agriculture, water supply, natural landscape and lead to an increase in extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and bushfires.

Like our national budget, failing to balance our carbon budget will be felt well beyond the current fiscal cycle and would place an unreasonable burden on future generations. The good news is that this is a budget we know we can balance, if we get started now.

The Conversation

Anna Skarbek is CEO at ClimateWorks Australia at Monash University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Earth 2050: What the Future May Be Like


The link below is to an article on what the world may be like in the year 2050.

For more visit:
http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2012/03/hot-crowded-and-running-out-of-fuel-earth-of-2050-a-scary-place.ars

Denmark: 100% Renewable Energy Goal by 2050


The link below is to an article on how Denmark is attempting to have a green energy future.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/mar/26/wind-energy-denmark