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South Australia’s pathway to a low carbon future

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.

rWdMeee6_pe 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.


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  1. RosemaryJ36

    Wake up Australia! All states and Territories AND the Commonwealth government should be working on these same lines!

  2. PC

    Credlin and Abbott are rightfully suspected as being co-conspirators in the undermining of this country’s democracy and thus a royal commission into their dealings must follow if this country is serious about preserving its democracy.

  3. Chris

    Mind you, we seem to have blown the government budget on oversize roads, inefficient buildings and stadiums…….
    We have embedded huge amounts of inefficiency and therefore emissions in poor building standards and such things as concrete that wasn’t needed….

  4. Chris

    townsvilleblog People keep trying to make nuclear power ‘stack up’ as an option but it just doesn’t unless we massively increase our demand. A new large city of refugees perhaps….
    The upgrading of power networks to send nuclear power to NSW or Qld makes little sense either. Micro-reactors multiply the risks.
    This is from a somewhat(ok very) pro-nuclear blog but it does address various issues including transmission and links to the Climateworks report “PATHWAYS TO DEEP DECARBONISATION IN 2050” and the Climateworks pdf
    He does seem like a dangerous guy as far as his arguing for nuclear power and worth keeping an eye on.

  5. Chris

    On the safety of nuclear waste storage I was working at a metal recycler when radioactive isotope containers with warning labels were put into the fragmentizer…. I had rung the EPA to tell them about this and they rang my workplace straight back…outing me as the whistleblower. I got told they had been ‘checked out’ and the radioactivity had magically gone away. They went into the fragmentizer the next day. I didn’t go to work. Much of the radioactive material would have ended up in the air and mixed in with other steel to be made into other products.
    That is the thing….the authorities can’t be trusted to manage this stuff and especially if they are going to hide it away in a remote area. It needs to be stored close to population centres to insure it is stored and managed properly forever.
    The EPA are jerks. Good people who work there leave….

  6. paul walter

    Having just watched the news and the announcement of ALP deputy John Rau concerning swathes of big and protected gum trees to be axed despite reports from 2 councils indicating experts think this as unnecessary, I dont want to know about SA Labor and its right faction and its conservative hatred of enviro and heritage.

  7. Chris

    paul walter Whaere are those trees ? I just watched ABC 7 pm news on iview and didn’t see that story. The Labor Part did botch the significant tree legislation when they brought it in…..and it doesn’t have to apply if the tree is deemed unsafe or unhealthy.

  8. paul walter

    I dont get that. I saw it tonight on 7. Down south and around Mitcham. I have many memories of a previous effort to save a park from Labor and its developer mates, the St Clair park debacle: that was rank with the stench of something long dead.

    No, wait up..Chris, I might have got this off a friend’s FB page without checking exactly the date. Never mind, it ultimately came back to John Rau (as usual) and I can’t tolerate right-faction apparachiks.

    Anyway, apologia pro poemate meo.

  9. Chris

    No worries. Unfortunately as I said the significant tree legislation doesn’t apply to many old but multi stemmed trees like Melaleucas or Mallees because they rarely or never attain the girth required to be eligible for protection and almost any can have their death warrant written by an arborist…..
    “A significant tree is a regulated tree in metropolitan Adelaide, Adelaide Hills Council townships and parts of the Mount Barker Council with a trunk circumference of 3.0 metres or more (measured at a point 1.0 metre above natural ground level). In the case of trees with multiple trunks, significant trees are those with trunks having a total circumference of 3.0 metres or more and an average circumference of 625 millimetres or more (measured at a point 1.0 metre above natural ground level).”

  10. Michael Taylor

    Mitchum is a beautiful area. Love all the old gums there.

  11. paul walter

    That’s the sort of stuff they are after. This government has frustrated the daylights out of me, the only reason I can’t condemn it outright is because I dont know how bad the pathetic SA Liberals would have been.

    Many in SA put Rann in 12 years ago to clamp down on the sort of- unthinkingly servile- pro developer stuff we were copping with Brown and Olsen, the previous lib premiers. They were promising and confident early, but the right faction has cemented its grip on SA Labor despite two near disastrous elections since 2010. And like good conservatives everywhere, the likes of Rau neither forgot, or learned what those elections were about.

    Chris, you are around the mark, the report said that even significant trees were “gone”and held an interview with two women under a geat big tree, to express their puzzlement and disappointment.

    Apparently council aborealists had said there was no reason for most of the trees to go…Kris Hanna in particular seemed ropable.

    Finally yes, 7. I never bother with it usually because I rate it lower even than ABC news, but maybe times are changing?

  12. paul walter

    Significant trees to be cleared for South Road upgrade

    Rau is a glib, smarmy shade of grey, but this is the way it has gone throught out a lot of suburbs throughout Adelaide with this government, and its assault on the Adelaide Parklands is legendary.

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