By Dr Anthony Horton
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and Minister for Climate Change Ian Hunter have recently released a report outlining how the state will transition to a low carbon future. The report titled ‘South Australia’s Climate Change Strategy 2015-2050 Towards a low carbon economy’ includes more than 30 initiatives grouped into six themes. These themes are: South Australia Leading on Climate Change, Towards Net Zero Emissions, Carbon Neutral Adelaide, Innovating to Drive a Resilient and Competitive Low Carbon Economy, Creating a Prosperous and Resilient State, and Building Community Capacity to Act.
The message from Weatherill and Hunter early in the report is very clear. They see climate change presenting South Australia with massive economic opportunities, and by taking ambitious early action they believe South Australia will be best placed to maximise these opportunities. They also send the strong message for the rest of the world to look to South Australia if they want to innovate and perfect low carbon technologies to slow the pace of global warming.
I found it refreshing that the report was upfront and honest about the projected environmental impacts of climate change in South Australia – based on data and statistics from CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the Department of Environment. Some of these environmental impacts include more hot days and prolonged high temperature spells, decreases in annual rainfall, higher intensity extreme rainfall events, and prolonged periods of drought.
“A net zero target is critical to limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C and will signal this Government’s commitment to a low carbon economy”.
The introduction of an ambitious net zero emissions target by 2050, signing of the Global Climate Leadership Memorandum of Understanding (Under2MOU) and embedding the net zero emissions target in legislation, policy, and decision making are amongst the new initiatives which Premier Weatherill and Minister Hunter believe will consolidate the State’s climate change leadership. They believe that a net zero target is critical to limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C and will signal this Government’s commitment to a low carbon economy.
Signing the Under2MOU demonstrates their Government’s commitment to reducing emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 according to Weatherill and Hunter. The Weatherill Government will amend the Climate Change and Greenhouse Emissions Reduction Act 2007 to include the net zero emissions by 2050 target. The net zero target and Carbon Neutral Adelaide target will also be embedded into key policy documents, and both of these targets will have to be taken into account regarding future decisions in planning and infrastructure provision.
In terms of towards net zero emissions, the South Australian Government will firstly implement the Low Carbon Investment Plan which is targeting $10 billion of investment in low carbon energy generation by 2025. In addition, expressions of interest are being sought for the reduction of Government fleet vehicle emissions, with a focus on electric and hybrid vehicles. Decarbonising the transport network is another new initiative under the towards net zero emissions theme. Other components of this initiative include completing the electrification of the metropolitan rail network, reintroducing trams within the CBD and inner metropolitan routes, and extending and improving cycling and walking networks.
“A Carbon Neutral Adelaide will be a critical part of South Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy”.
According to the report, a Carbon Neutral Adelaide will be a critical part of South Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy. New initiatives under this theme in the report include developing a Carbon Neutral Adelaide action plan, installing solar PV cells on low income households, and improving the energy efficiency of Government buildings. The action plan which will include specific actions towards the carbon neutral goal will be developed in collaboration with the Adelaide City Council and published next year. Two hundred low income households will have solar PV cells installed on the roofs of their houses, and as a pilot program they will also be installed on newly constructed Australian Housing Trust properties in South Australia next year. As part of a new energy efficiency investment program for Government owned buildings, it will be mandatory for all agencies to identify and implement upgrade opportunities.
New initiatives under the Innovating to Drive a Resilient and Competitive Low Carbon Economy include launching ‘smart city’ technologies, supporting the uptake of electric vehicles, and attracting international investment. The Adelaide City Council has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Cisco to undertake a number of pilot projects including Smart Parking, Smart Public Lighting, and the establishment of an ‘Internet of Things Innovation Hub’ in Adelaide. In terms of electric vehicles, the Government will support a car share project using a vehicle provided by Go-Get. with the aim of this project to allow people to experience driving an electric car and understand the associated environmental benefits.
The South Australian Government is establishing an agency dedicated to attracting interstate and international capital, and to work with the private sector assisting with the navigation of Regulatory and Approvals processes. By focusing on existing capabilities and strengths, including advanced manufacturing, it is hoped that the agency will facilitate significant opportunities in the cleantech space.
About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.