Codes, communication and climate: how different sectors should decarbonise

Decarbonisation is not going to happen the same way in every industry: it will create many jobs, remove some and almost certainly change everyone’s work practices.

A panel at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra’s Better Futures Forum this week,  “Decarbonising sectors to achieve Australia’s climate agenda together,” explored the myriad of ways different parts of the country can decarbonise.

Decarbonisation in construction

Professor Deo Prasad AO, from UNSW’s School of the Built Environment, says the building code is a useful government lever for decarbonisation.

“Normally it’s used to eliminate worst practice, but it can be used to drive much better practice than we have in building and construction,” said Prasad.

Incentives are needed so existing buildings can be modified to use less energy.

Prasad added that current regulations need to be more stringent, with net zero emissions in mind.

“If you have 43% commitment by 2030 and net zero by 2050, then what levels of stringency in the code will deliver those?”

Indigenous perspectives

Dr Virginia Marshall, ANU Institute of Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions and Co-Chair Indigenous Cluster, emphasised the importance of Indigenous-led research and practice in responding to climate change, and how this work differs from some of the work currently being done.

“We know that the carbon price for many indigenous land councils is far too low. I’ve just come away from a remote area [where] insurance for indigenous rangers to actually exercise their incredible ability to look after land and water, is hindering indigenous land councils.

She reiterated keynote speaker Rev. Dr Raymond Minniecon’s point on the difference between Indigenous and Western educations.

“Before an Aboriginal child reaches the age of 10 or 12, he or she already has a PhD in environmental science,” said Minniecon, who is co-chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation Australia and director of Bunji Consultancies.

“Before they reach the age of 10, or 12, they already have a PhD in marine biology. Before they reach the age of 10 or 12, they already have a PhD in astronomy, because that’s how the Aboriginal education system works.”

Superannuation and the climate

Superannuation funds are increasingly under pressure to invest in climate-friendly options.

Akaash Sachdeva, manager of responsible investment at HESTA, said that clear 2030 emissions reduction targets are important for investment funds to think about how they’re allocating money.

He added that the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Working Group III) “really honed in on the climate financing gap.”

“This is such an important part of how we respond,” said Sachdeva.

He said that there were three broad themes HESTA was using to decarbonise: allocating funds, active ownership, and advocacy.

Where new technology needs help

Michael Wheatland, the manager of sustainable processing at engineering project directors, Calix Limited, discussed the space between someone having an idea for a new decarbonisation technology, and that technology becoming widely available.

“It requires you to build trust, build a network of people, and really make sure that those ideas are really clear and well understood because sustainability and climate change are complex topics to talk about,” said Wheatland.

He added that government policy and investment, as well as private investment, was key to getting a technology to succeed.

Getting carbon back into the ground

Carbon farming and sequestration brings with it economic as well as environmental benefits, according to Louise-Marlena Tarrier, CEO of Carbon Positive Australia.

“We need, really, to be invigorating that restoration economy,” said Tarrier.

“We can only do that together with Indigenous people in Australia – and it can get huge amounts of jobs.”

She added that research done by her organisation had found that employees were often the main instigators of decarbonisation in organisations.

“They were the ones that were driving the change and actually wanting their organizations to actively do something about it,” said Tarrier.

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