New data shows 25% emissions reduction is achievable

Australia can achieve a greenhouse gas emissions reductions target of 25 per cent by 2020 at a relatively low average cost, according to new data soon to be released by ClimateWorks Australia.

ClimateWorks Australia CEO, Professor Dave Griggs, said an updated greenhouse gas abatement cost curve demonstrates that a 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 levels can be achieved by 2020 at an average cost below $15 per tonne of carbon dioxide, within Australia. This represents the net economic cost to the community, taking into account the economic benefits from many of the actions which result in savings. More than two thirds of the abatement can be achieved at a cost of less than $30 per tonne.

“The new data, based on the McKinsey & Company carbon abatement cost curve methodology, shows there are many opportunities for emission reductions to be made at low cost or with a net economic benefit to society. These include alternative agricultural practices, lower vehicle emissions, commercial building retrofits, efficient appliances in residential buildings and industrial energy efficiency.

“The analysis identifies over 80 opportunities to reduce emissions in Australia,” he said.

“For example, the improvement of efficiency in industries such as mining, metals and food processing can produce a net economic benefit of between $30 and $50 per tonne of carbon dioxide saved. More efficient conventional vehicles have a net economic benefit of over $50 per tonne. These savings are financial benefits in addition to the environmental benefits of reducing emissions.

“Preliminary data indicates that the forestry sector represents over 20 per cent of total 2020 abatement opportunities. Reducing deforestation, better forest management and planting new forests can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and make a substantial contribution to national abatement.

“These low cost abatement measures are achievable with technologies commercially available today, or likely to be commercially available in the near to medium‐term, and will ensure Australians get the greatest return for their investment with the least disruption to the economy.”

ClimateWorks Australia Executive Director, Anna Skarbek, said that the analysis builds on the research already undertaken in the field of carbon abatement cost curves, using updated data and taking into account technology changes, new policies and a more detailed estimate of abatement opportunities in sectors like forestry and agriculture. It highlights the range of additional abatement opportunities available that are not targeted by current and proposed policy measures.

“Many of the abatement opportunities become even more attractive for investors when there is a price on carbon” she said. “Australians could achieve more than 25% reduction of emissions by implementing all the opportunities identified including avoiding deforestation and a greater use of different power sources such as off‐shore wind and biogas energy,” she said. 

Ms Skarbek said the new abatement cost curve had been developed as part of work being undertaken by ClimateWorks Australia on a Low Carbon Growth Plan. 

The Plan will provide a roadmap for how Australia can build a growing low‐carbon economy and will be released next month. 

* ClimateWorks Australia is a new non‐profit organisation that provides practical solutions dedicated to a sustainable and prosperous low carbon society. It was formed through a partnership between The Myer Foundation and Monash University.