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The challenges of addressing global climate change can seem overwhelming. The recently-released IPCC report showed that global emissions will need to fall by 40 to 70 per cent between now and 2050 to meet the global goal of keeping warming to two degrees – with even more needed to be done in developed countries.
A new global project is taking a close look at how thirteen of the world’s largest economies can transition to a low-carbon lifestyle, and continue to thrive while doing so. The Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project - is being led by eminent US economist Jeffrey Sachs, – who is visiting Australia this week to discuss development and low-carbon growth, including in a lecture at Crawford School.
Sachs, special advisor to UN Secretary-General, will present all countries’ reports to Ban Ki-moon in July, and the reports will inform a special United Nations summit on climate change this September.
The Australian report is led by ClimateWorks Australia and ANU Crawford School, with modelling and other analysis provided by CSIRO and the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University.
Crawford School’s Frank Jotzo, Director of The Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, said that a low-carbon future is achievable for Australia.
“For Australia, the centrepiece of a truly low emissions scenario is comprehensive technological innovation and modernisation.
“It may seem daunting, but between now and 2050, a large share of Australia’s industrial and energy infrastructure will be renewed anyway.
“The majority of the housing stock will be built new between now and then, and practically none of the cars and trucks on the road now will be still around in 2050,” he said.
“Our industry and housing can be much more energy efficient. Electricity can be produced almost entirely from zero-carbon sources of which Australia has an abundant supply, and transport could run almost entirely on electricity and biofuels.
“Large amounts of investment would flow, and new industries would thrive.”
Jotzo acknowledged that there will be economic winners and losers in the economies, but added that the overall macroeconomic effects would be small.
“Coal would likely have a much smaller market, as our trading partners would demand less of it and much less coal would be used by Australian power and industrial plants.
“We are already witnessing the gradual decline of some energy intensive industries such as aluminium smelting and steel making which are less and less competitive in Australia. But if the world gets serious about drastic cuts in emissions, then Australia could once again be an energy superpower, this time using renewables power to run energy intensive industries.
“Australia has tremendous potential for storing carbon in trees and soils. Done the right way, Australia could make a huge contribution in pulling carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere,” he said.
Jeffrey Sachs will present a public lecture, Strategies for deep decarbonisation of the global energy system, at Crawford School on Thursday 22 May. This event is fully booked but the lecture will be video recorded and available on the ANU YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/ANUchannel
The project takes place under the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which ANU is a member of. Professor Jeffrey Sachs is Director of the network.