Australian climate change report

01 October 2008

The final report from Ross Garnaut to the Australian government makes a strong case for addressing the "diabolical" challenge of climate change. Nuclear power is not promoted, even though some scenarios show it as economic.


Kangaroos (Barryspics)

 Kangaroos react to the news
 (Image: Barryspics)


The Garnaut report recommends
that Australians eat and export more
kangaroos in preference to cows and
sheep, whose methane emissions
pose a problem. 


Cattle and sheep are also "highly
vulnerable to the biophysical impacts
of climate change, such as water
scarcity," whereas kangaroos were
the main source of meat for around
60,000 years.


By 2020 it would be possible to
replace many of the sheep and
cattle with a sevenfold increase in
kangaroo numbers, and with
emission permits at A$40 ($31) per
tonne CO2-equivalent this would be
a profitable meat alternative and
save 16 million tonnes of CO2-
equivalent emissions per year.

Garnaut was commissioned to produce the report by the Labor Party while it was in opposition before the November electrion that brought it to power. Garnaut noted: "Given the economic issues and community disquiet about establishing a domestic nuclear power capacity, Australia would be best served by continuing to export its uranium and focusing on low-emissions coal, gas and renewable options for domestic energy supply." 


Garnaut recommends that Australia should aim for emission cuts of between 5 and 25% from 2000 levels by 2020, depending on the scope of the international agreement to come after 2012. He favoured adoption of the "ambitious" 25% figure if this can be matched internationally, as required to maintain CO2 concentrations at about 450 ppm. However, he suggests that a 550 ppm level involving 10% reduction may be a more "practical" target. At that CO2 concentration, the report's modeling shows that wholesale electricity prices would be lower with nuclear power supplying 27% of electricity by 2050.


Trading to lead energy policies?


A trading system for greenhouse gas emissions should be established "at the earliest possible date, in 2010," according to Garnaut. He added that for the two years from then until the end of the Kyoto compliance period, emissions permits should be sold at a fixed price, rising over time.


"No useful purpose is served by other policies that have as their rationale the reduction of emissions from sectors covered by the trading scheme. The Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (setting a minimum target for sourcing power from renewable sources) should be phased out." Nuclear energy would be seen as a potential beneficiary of emissions trading, with its life-cycle emissions around the same level as those from renewables and far below those of fossil fuels.


To reduce emissions from power generation, the report proposes major effort to commercialise clean coal technologies, notably carbon capture and sequestration, "within the range of current cost expectations", since over 80% of Australia's electricity is from coal and lignite. The report sees nuclear power as a fall-back options if carbon capture fails to live up to its theoretical promise or if "nuclear costs come in a the low end of current estimates."