VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the government's drought policy - and the trust divide in politics

Michelle Grattan says the announcement of extra money for drought-stricken farmers "won't be enough" to alleviate pressure on the government on the issue of drought. ShutterstockUniversity of Canberra...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Our ability to manufacture minerals could transform the gem market, medical industries and even help suck carbon from the air

Pictured is a slag pile at Broken Hill in New South Wales. Slag is a man-made waste product created during smelting. Anita Parbhakar-Fox, Author providedLast month, scientists uncovered a mineral call...

Anita Parbhakar-Fox, Senior Research Fellow in Geometallurgy/Applied Geochemistry, The University of Queensland - avatar Anita Parbhakar-Fox, Senior Research Fellow in Geometallurgy/Applied Geochemistry, The University of Queensland

Lambie stays mute on medevac vote after Senate inquiry splits on party lines

Jacqui Lambie has yet to announce whether she will support the bill to have medevac repealed.AAP/Mick TsikasThe Senate inquiry into repealing medevac has predictably split along party lines, with the ...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Sydney's 9,189 'sister politicians' who petitioned Queen Victoria

One spring morning in 1850, over 8,000 Sydneysiders marched through town to protest the resumption of transportation – the act of sending British criminals to Australia. It was the largest prote...

Kiera Lindsey, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Kiera Lindsey, University of Technology Sydney

Penny Whetton: A pioneering climate scientist skilled in the art of life

Penny Whetton, right, addressing a March for Science rally. Her death last month shocked and saddened colleagues.Supplied by familyLast month we lost Dr Penny Whetton - one of the world’s most r...

John M Clarke, Team Leader, Regional Projections, CSIRO - avatar John M Clarke, Team Leader, Regional Projections, CSIRO

​The Coalition government is (again) trying to put the squeeze on the ABC

The Coalition government has reintroduced a bill seeking to mandate the ABC devote more resources to covering regional Australia – a measure that has been defeated before by parliament.Danny Cas...

Fiona R Martin, Senior Lecturer in Convergent and Online Media, University of Sydney - avatar Fiona R Martin, Senior Lecturer in Convergent and Online Media, University of Sydney

Trump is flouting global trade rules with China yet embracing them with the EU – here's why it matters

Just as America’s trade war with China may be winding down, its troubles with Europe seem to be growing. On Oct. 11, President Donald Trump said that the United States and China had agreed, in p...

Charles Hankla, Associate Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University - avatar Charles Hankla, Associate Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University

Where is my Xanax Rx? Why your doctor may be concerned about prescribing benzodiazepines

Xanax, sold generically as alprazolam, is a popular drug to treat anxiety -- and to sell on the street.PureRadiancePhoto/Shutterstock.comAs an academic psychiatrist who treats people with anxiety and ...

Arash Javanbakht, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University - avatar Arash Javanbakht, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University

Blockchain voting is vulnerable to hackers, software glitches and bad ID photos – among other problems

How secure is online voting with blockchain technology?WhiteDragon/Shutterstock.comA developing technology called “blockchain” has gotten attention from election officials, startups and ev...

Nir Kshetri, Professor of Management, University of North Carolina – Greensboro - avatar Nir Kshetri, Professor of Management, University of North Carolina – Greensboro

Pope affirms Catholic Church's duty to indigenous Amazonians hurt by climate change

Pope Francis at the start of the Amazon synod, at the Vatican, Oct. 7, 2019.AP Photo/Andrew MedichiniThe Catholic Church “hears the cry” of the Amazon and its peoples. That’s the mes...

Vincent J. Miller, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Dayton - avatar Vincent J. Miller, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Dayton

How Mister Rogers' faith shaped his idea of children's television

Fred Rogers rehearses with some of his puppet friends in Pittsburgh,.Gene J. Puskarg/AP The beloved children’s television icon Fred Rogers – who is played by actor Tom Hanks in the upcomin...

L. Benjamin Rolsky, Adjunct Professor of History, Religion, and Anthropology, Monmouth University - avatar L. Benjamin Rolsky, Adjunct Professor of History, Religion, and Anthropology, Monmouth University

The Chicago teachers' strike isn't just about kids – it's about union power too

Chicago's teachers are on strike for the first time since 2012.AP Photo/Martha IrvineClasses in Chicago’s public schools were canceled starting Oct. 17 as more than 25,000 teachers in the nation...

Bradley D. Marianno, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy & Leadership, University of Nevada, Las Vegas - avatar Bradley D. Marianno, Assistant Professor of Educational Policy & Leadership, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This overdose-reversal medicine could reduce opioid deaths – so why don't more people carry it?

Naloxone, available as a nasal spray called Narcan or in injectable form, resuscitates 100% of people who overdose if administered quickly. AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyForty-seven thousand Americans died...

Tarlise Townsend, Joint PhD Student, Health Policy and Sociology, University of Michigan - avatar Tarlise Townsend, Joint PhD Student, Health Policy and Sociology, University of Michigan

Here's what's missing in efforts to curb heavy drinking and hazing on campus

Colleges throughout the nation are beset with problems of alcohol and hazing on campus. AP Photo/Dake KangMaxwell Gruver had been a student at Louisiana State University for only a few weeks in 2017 b...

Adam M. McCready, Visiting Assistant Professor, Higher Education & Student Affairs, University of Connecticut - avatar Adam M. McCready, Visiting Assistant Professor, Higher Education & Student Affairs, University of Connecticut

imageBernie Fraser of the Climate Change Authority, environment minister Greg Hunt, and Clive Palmer announce a deal on a plan to cut Australia's emissions this decade. What happens after that isn't so clear. AAPImage/Alan Porritt

With the passage of the Emissions Reduction Fund through the Senate last night, the federal government has taken a step towards achieving Australia’s minimum target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.

The Emissions Reduction Fund is the centrepiece of the Coalition’s Direct Action plan, which will replace the Carbon Pricing Mechanism repealed in July this year.

But questions remain over how Australia will achieve the post-2020 transition to a decarbonised economy by mid-century. Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change is the reason for emissions reductions policy.

Glimpses of an ETS

We now know that we have a limited “carbon budget” that means emissions must be close to zero by 2050. The carbon budget is well described by the Climate Change Authority which fortunately was retained in a deal between the coalition and the Palmer United Party to see the fund through the upper house .

The deal also provides a review into emissions trading schemes (ETS) and Australia’s future target or cap.

It has frustrated many to see a working emissions trading scheme abolished only to commence a new review into an ETS. Still, this shows that the ETS is a topic that won’t die.

Glimpses of an ETS exist in the deal. The promise of a safeguard which acts as a cap on large emitters as part of the Emissions Reduction Fund deal could over time be strengthened to match the decarbonising trajectory needed. Shortfalls could possibly be met by buying abatement units achieved by others.

Meeting a 2020 target

Both of Australia’s major parties have agreed to a minimum national target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020. The Emissions Reduction Fund is the Federal Government’s signature policy to achieve this minimum target.

The fund involves direct payments made by the government to businesses who agree to take actions to emit fewer greenhouse gases than expected. It will achieve this through an auctioning process whereby business can “bid” with their emissions reduction projects, and the projects that can reduce emissions at the lowest cost are paid to do so.

ClimateWorks’ previous research suggests that, if well designed, the fund could effectively fund some emissions reduction opportunities in Australia.

In particular, it could be suitable to fund projects that deliver large reductions in emissions at reasonable cost through technologically proven methods, including projects to:

  • Capture waste methane from coal mines, preventing the gas from escaping into the atmosphere
  • Undertake deep retrofits of commercial buildings and industrial facilities to make them more energy efficient
  • Take carbon out of the atmosphere through “carbon farming” – agriculture, afforestation (planting trees) and reduced deforestation.

According to the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund White Paper, the fund will have a budget of A$2.55 billion, with further funding to be considered in future budgets. The adequacy of the budget for the task remains a question.

Beyond 2020

The Emissions Reduction Fund is currently only designed to incentivise emissions reductions between now and 2020, with a view to meeting the 5% target.

However, even if this target is met, the far bigger question is how Australia will achieve the fundamental transition to a low carbon economy, which we now know will be required globally and in Australia by the middle of this century.

In particular, a major transition is needed in energy systems, and these investments need longer timeframes than the next five years. The Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation project report, which was presented to world leaders at the recent UN Climate Summit in New York, shows that near-zero carbon energy systems are feasible for all major emitting countries, while sustaining economic growth.

Australia’s pathways are detailed in an additional national report which shows that Australia has abundant renewable energy options and can achieve near-zero carbon electricity through renewables alone.

Alternatively, a mix of renewables, carbon capture and storage and/or nuclear could be used. This low carbon electricity could then replace petrol and diesel in cars and passenger transport and replace gas used for cooking, heating and cooling buildings. Gas would be used in trucks replacing diesel, and gas would be the main fossil fuel used in industry. Some of this can be shifted to bioenergy or sequestered with carbon capture and storage, and the rest sequestered with carbon forestry.

Australia’s report sees a 71% reduction in CO2 emissions from energy, while the economy grows by almost 150% by 2050 and retains mining and manufacturing, in a world that is also decarbonising.

To reduce the remaining emissions to stay within Australia’s share of keeping warming below the “safe” threshold of 2C, a large increase in land-based carbon sequestration is needed to complement the energy use transition.

How to decarbonise by 2050

The Deep Decarbonisation Pathways reports show that it is possible to transition to a decarbonised economy by 2050, but that this would require a rapid acceleration in activity in all sectors of the economy to reduce emissions and set the economy on an achievable trajectory for deep decarbonisation.

Further, the project highlighted the need to start making decisions today across the economy based on the required long-term emissions reductions.

In particular, it will be necessary to:

  • Accelerate action to reduce emissions now, particularly through energy efficiency opportunities which are already proven and profitable

  • Avoid lock-in of emissions-intensive technologies, particularly for long-lived assets such as buildings, industrial facilities and power plants which if built today could still be in operation in 2050

  • Prepare for the future by investing in research and development to bring down the cost of low carbon technologies, building the necessary supply chains and developing local skills and capabilities in these new technologies and processes.

In theory, the Emissions Reduction Fund could continue to operate beyond 2020, with the proposed “safeguard mechanism” operating like a cap on total national emissions. The could be reduced each year in line with the necessary trajectory to achieve complete decarbonisation by 2050.

However, this would require budget allocations to be made every year for a task that will only get larger, or an evolution toward trading between emitters rather than purchasing by government.

In its current design, the Emissions Reduction Fund is most suited to incentivising a certain set of emissions reduction activities.

The Deep Decarbonisation report shows that the transition will be required across all sectors of the economy, and some areas will be better incentivised through other mechanisms.

These mechanisms include minimum efficiency standards for long-lived assets such as vehicles, buildings and industrial developments to avoid “locking in” inefficient technologies, and long-term incentives for the transition to zero carbon electricity, such as an increased Renewable Energy Target or similar measure and ongoing support for new technology development.

Whether or not the Emissions Reduction Fund has a role to play post-2020, a suite of additional measures will be required to drive this transition. We don’t have long to switch to the technologies that can power our economy without creating emissions.

image

Anna Skarbek works for ClimateWorks which is funded by philanthropy and Monash University. Additional funding was received for the Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project from ARENA, Accenture, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, TransGrid and the Mullum Trust.

Read more http://theconversation.com/direct-actions-here-but-how-will-australia-cut-carbon-after-2020-33642