Designing a zero carbon future – Can it really be possible, or is it just another smokescreen?

Posted Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Designing a zero carbon future

By David Mellonie, for the Design Institute of Australia

Designing a zero carbon future

Can it really be possible, or is it just another smokescreen?

With all the current talk in Australia about the merits and mechanisms of a possible carbon tax, it might be instructive to learn how other countries are approaching the issue.

The arguments against a carbon tax in Australia are generally viewed with bemusement, if not incredulity by the governments of many European countries, who were able to work out long ago that reducing greenhouse emissions had to be a good thing in the long term for their economies and their citizens? wellbeing.

As Australians hold the dubious distinction of being the largest per capita greenhouse emitters in the world, you?d think that some of our politicians and business leaders might feel a vague compulsion to unload that distinction somewhere else, but no.

Like the now stillborn mining ?superprofits? resource tax, which other resource-rich countries like Norway have used for years to build up a massive financial safety net, it appears common sense about carbon pricing might be resisted until the bitter end.

But are the critics right?

Is it desirable to tax carbon as a way of reducing carbon and greenhouse emissions?

Is a much-reduced or zero carbon future even possible to achieve?

According to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), based in Wales, and which claims to be Europe?s leading eco-centre, a zero carbon future is not only possible, they?ve released a report showing ways they think it could be done (in Britain) by 2030.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the report is entitled zerocarbonbritain2030, and in addition to the science CAT says backs up its claims, what new technologies are available to help, what legislation can be used, and how to reduce emissions in land use and transport, the report also looks at how to reduce carbon emissions in the built environment, which may be of most interest to designers here.

The report claims to be a ?hugely collaborative project? with contributions, comments and reviews from ?experts in the field? including Sir John Houghton, Godfrey Boyle, Rob Hopkins, Graham Parkhurst, Paul Davies, Hugo Spowers, and Victoria Johnson.

Other British experts like Professor James Lovelock are notably absent, presumably because of his support for nuclear energy, which CAT rejects because of safety and environmental concerns.

If you?re interested in the subject, there are two things you can do: download a free copy of the report from the website at the bottom of this article, and if you?re in Melbourne or Sydney, attend a free lecture on the subject by the Head of Research and Innovation at CAT for the last twenty years, UK scientist Peter Harper.

Harper will explore how we can ?Power Down? demand in the built environment, transport, land use and institute behavioural change, then ?Power Up? the energy system with renewables.

He outlines the key thinking behind the report, demonstrating how the move to a low carbon economy is an investment in the future, and holds a question and answer session afterwards.

In Melbourne, the free lecture is on Wednesday 13th April, 6.30 – 8pm at BMW Edge in Federation Square.

In Sydney, it?s on Tuesday 19th April, 6.30 – 8pm at the Sydney Town Hall.

To attend, you need to register by Monday 11th April at the British Council by contacting amrit.gill@britishcouncil.org.au

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