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How does the ACT get to zero carbon emissions by 2050? Time to have your say

By Rebecca Vassarotti - 14 December 2017 5

Renewable electricity is just part of the solution to reduce our carbon emissions. Photo: Supplied.

The ACT prides itself on being a leading jurisdiction when it comes to responding to climate change. We have been courageous in our aspirations and have worked hard to meet them. While there were many sceptics when our 100% renewable electricity target was adopted, two years out from the deadline and after significant planning and investment in renewables, we are on track to meeting our target. The government’s work in this area is well supported by the community. A 2016 survey found that 90% of respondents agreed that climate change was a genuine problem, 81% wanted the government to take strong action and 70% recognised that individuals needed to take personal responsibility in reducing greenhouse emissions.

While we have made a good start in doing our bit to reduce our impact on the climate, there is still much to be done. The 100% renewables target is one part of a bigger target around eliminating our carbon emissions, with the ACT aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Working out how we get there is a key focus of the discussion paper, The ACT’S Climate Strategy to a net Zero Emissions Territory, that was released by the ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury MLA this week.

The discussion paper has been released to generate discussion and ideas from the community. A key question is whether or not there should be interim targets to support the longer term target of zero emissions. It also canvasses whether or not the Territory should use ‘carbon offsets’ from projects outside the ACT if there are any shortfalls, or whether it would be better to calculate a cost per tonne of any emissions created above the target, and directing that money to real emissions abatement activities in the ACT region.

It explores issues regarding what to do in the different sectors where we are creating the most emissions. When we look at where we are generating emissions, it is clear that achieving our renewable electricity targets are only the first part of our journey to a zero-emissions future. It is also clear that we have a big challenge for the next part of this journey – one that will need to be shared by Governments, businesses and households. With the removal of electricity emissions, we will now need to focus our efforts on reducing emissions associated with transport, emissions created through the use of gas, emissions generated by industry and emissions created by our waste.

Transport presents key challenges, particularly given that in Canberra it is all too easy to reach for the car keys rather than walk, cycle or catch public transport. The government can do part of this work; in fact, part of the design of the light rail system is to reshape our city to create a public transport spine. City design can also create opportunities to reduce our need for travel, but the decision is ultimately in our hands. There is a need for all of us to change our behaviour, including using our vehicles less and considering switching to electric vehicles powered by renewable sources. While it seems a long way away, we can draw inspiration from places like Norway which deliberately designed policy and provided subsidies to support electric vehicles, and are even aiming for all new passenger car sales to be fully battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2025. While these may not be the best measures for us, it is clear that a business as usual approach will not get us where we need to be.

Gas is another area of challenge, particularly given that many businesses and households have legacy systems that rely on gas. While we may love cooking with gas and the comfort provided by ducted gas heating, the reality is that this energy source is increasingly costing us money, and contributing to greenhouse gases. The paper notes that some developers are proposing ‘all electric’ suburbs and wants to hear the community’s views as to whether or not we should continue to roll out expensive gas infrastructure – that may be used by fewer households – in new suburbs. It is also keen to hear the community’s views on the use of alternative fuels, and the role of planning and building in transitioning away from gas as a key energy source.

Whatever your views, this is the chance for you to share them, and be part of the process that will make the ACT an emission-free city by 2050. Contributions are welcome until 9 April 2018 via the ACT Government’s Have Your Say website.

Photo: ACT Government.

Photo: ACT Government.

Rebecca Vassarotti is an active member of the ACT Greens and was a candidate in the 2016 Territory Election.

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5 Responses to
How does the ACT get to zero carbon emissions by 2050? Time to have your say
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Capital Retro 6:31 pm 16 Dec 17

Leon Arundell said :

Correction: Building Stage 1 of light rail causes only a sixth of a tonne of emissions for each ACT resident.

But only 70,000 Canberra residents will have access to the Stage I Trolley Folly so we shouldn’t apportion all the emissions guilt to them only, to be fair to all Canberrans, no?

Leon Arundell 9:42 am 16 Dec 17

Correction: Building Stage 1 of light rail causes only a sixth of a tonne of emissions for each ACT resident.

Capital Retro 8:10 am 16 Dec 17

Leon Arundell said :

Canberrans are world leaders in causing climate change. Until recently the average Canberran caused 25 tonnes CO2-e of greenhouse emissions per year – five times the world average. We will still cause ten tonnes per year in 2050, even if we reach the legislated target “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the ACT to achieve zero net emissions.” This is because we cause a lot of emissions OUTSIDE the ACT, including from travel outside the ACT, and emissions caused by food and other goods that are consumed here but produced elsewhere. As Shane Rattenbury said, switching to renewable electricity is the easy part. Our next big challenge is transport. ACTION buses cause about half the emissions of cars, on a per person-kilometre basis. The Government committed to “increasing the public transport share of all work trips to 10.5% by 2016 and 16% by 2026,” but by 2016 had achieved only 8.2%. Car driving went UP, because too many car passengers switched to driving their own cars. Light rail offers limited greenhouse benefit. Building Stage 1 causes half a tonne of emissions for each ACT resident. Light rail will have little impact on public transport patronage, because its amenity and speed advantages are balanced by disadvantages in walk times, wait times and the need for bus-tram transfers. A 10% increase in car parking charges will do more to reduce car use more than will spending $1.5 billion on light rail. Our best hope for reducing transport emissions is to redesign Canberra so that more destinations are within cycling distance. That will take a long time. So we need to start now..

You were doing well until you lost the plot by suggesting we all ride bikes.

Leon Arundell 5:57 am 16 Dec 17

Canberrans are world leaders in causing climate change. Until recently the average Canberran caused 25 tonnes CO2-e of greenhouse emissions per year – five times the world average. We will still cause ten tonnes per year in 2050, even if we reach the legislated target “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the ACT to achieve zero net emissions.” This is because we cause a lot of emissions OUTSIDE the ACT, including from travel outside the ACT, and emissions caused by food and other goods that are consumed here but produced elsewhere. As Shane Rattenbury said, switching to renewable electricity is the easy part. Our next big challenge is transport. ACTION buses cause about half the emissions of cars, on a per person-kilometre basis. The Government committed to “increasing the public transport share of all work trips to 10.5% by 2016 and 16% by 2026,” but by 2016 had achieved only 8.2%. Car driving went UP, because too many car passengers switched to driving their own cars. Light rail offers limited greenhouse benefit. Building Stage 1 causes half a tonne of emissions for each ACT resident. Light rail will have little impact on public transport patronage, because its amenity and speed advantages are balanced by disadvantages in walk times, wait times and the need for bus-tram transfers. A 10% increase in car parking charges will do more to reduce car use more than will spending $1.5 billion on light rail. Our best hope for reducing transport emissions is to redesign Canberra so that more destinations are within cycling distance. That will take a long time. So we need to start now..

Queanbeyanite 8:28 pm 15 Dec 17

Abolish the ACT territory and merge it with Queanbeyan Palerang Council. If the ACT doesn’t exist, by definition it doesn’t emit any emissions. Or you could bung a big nuclear reactor on Black Mountain Peninsula, a big one could power the whole south east NSW completely emissions free.

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