One of the major steps towards climate action is providing viable, sustainable solutions. This is the core mission for Beyond Zero Emissions, a not-for-profit organisation designing and implementing a zero emissions economy for Australia. Stephen Bygrave, the CEO of beyond Zero Emissions, talks about the solutions already being implemented in Australia…
Firstly, you mentioned you spoke with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) this afternoon about the upcoming climate change conference. Did you advise them on emission issues in Australia?
I spoke with DFAT this afternoon as they were holding a briefing for civil society and business groups for the upcoming Paris climate conference and Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) will be going to that conference. BZE has done a range of research on climate solutions, which we will be presenting to governments, business and NGOs at the Paris conference.
There are obviously many things on the agenda at the Paris conference but, ideally, what are the changes you want to see at the summit? And why are these changes so important?
We are pushing for a zero-emissions goal – 2 degrees and below means transitioning to zero emissions in the second half of this century. We will be sharing research and reports on zero emissions energy, buildings, transport, land use etc. which show how it is possible to make this transition. We are working with other NGOs like Zero Carbon Britain, Track Zero, the World Resources Institute and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), to try and get the zero emissions goal into the Paris text agreement. We are showcasing the Zero Emissions Byron project where the Byron Shire community is taking the Beyond Zero Emissions plans and implementing them on the ground. This will be Australia’s first regional area to go to zero emissions in ten years. There are a number of other cities and towns interested in zero emissions – Copenhagen and Adelaide are racing each other to be the first zero emissions city. Copenhagen, Melbourne and Vancouver are also interested. This amazing array of projects show that the transition to zero emissions is already happening.
How will the decisions the Paris conference affect Australia and the wider community?
Even a 2 degree target means zero emissions. However the post 2020 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) means the world is on track for 2.7 degrees warming by 2100. If we hit
2.7°C it means catastrophic climate change. Even the consequences of 2°C warming is scary. This is why we are aiming for 0 degrees warming. We have already seen the impacts from 1 degree Celsius with ice sheets and glaciers melting, floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires etc.
In the statement on your website, you have created a transition plan for Australia to be at zero emissions in ten years using commercially available technology. What kind of commercial technology do you mean?
Our approach is to look at existing technology to implement right now – we don’t have time to wait. The window is closing to stop runaway climate change. For example, reports show that new wind and solar technology is cheaper than coal. Energy efficient buildings will have enormous savings for the Australian economy. Moving to zero emissions transport such as high speed rail and electric vehicles will have huge improvements in economic productivity. New investments are required in energy systems, buildings, agriculture, transport etc regardless of climate action, so let’s make them efficient and low emissions now.
What are the main issues you are facing with this transition in Australia?
Political will and the guts to do this. Another issue is standing up to the vested interests, as there are many existing companies whose interest is to keep the status quo as that is where they profit. Some businesses are seeing the need to change their business model as times change, others are not – they will eventually suffer if they don’t change quickly and address the innovation challenges we currently face.”
How can the UN climate change summit help get BZE’s voice heard in Australia?
The UN climate change summit will help to apply pressure back on Australia for more ambitious action and not just talk. At Paris there will be a realisation that we’ve been talking about climate action for the past three decades with little result. There is a need for increased pressure and increased action. There is also increased recognition that people just want to get on with climate action. We are seeing a number of local communities and state governments who are keen to implement zero emissions solutions on the ground. The UN summit will highlight these actions and show that disruption is already upon us.