Post Carbon Pathways

This month the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and the Centre for Policy Development, at Melbourne University, released a major report, entitled “Post Carbon Pathways: Reviewing Post Carbon Economy Transition Strategies.” Authored by John Wiseman and Taegen Edwards, this report provides an overview of the key goals and priorities of 18 of the most ambitious, promising and innovative large scale post carbon economy transition plans and strategies. This is a serious contribution to what is arguably the defining challenge of our age: How to decarbonise our economies in the time available?

In line with the arguments and essays presented on this website, one of the key findings of the report is that an equitable and swift transition to a sustainable, post carbon economy will require “a significant shift towards economic priorities focusing on improving social and ecological wellbeing rather than unconstrained growth in material consumption.”

After reviewing and summarising 18 major studies on post carbon transitions, the authors conclude that the most common ballpark estimates of the costs of actions required to rapidly decarbonise the global economy are in the order of US$1,000 billion pa to 2030. To give some sense of perspective, the United States Government funds allocated to the 2011 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) supporting the ‘bail out’ of the US banking system amounted to US$700 billion.

You can download the briefing paper here (8 pages) and the summary here (18 pages). The full report is available here (132 pages).

This report focuses particularly on comprehensive large-scale post carbon transition strategies, defined as  ‘documents which identify one or more integrated, plausible pathways for achieving dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, within a national or supra national jurisdiction’. The report is the first stage in a larger, ongoing Post Carbon Pathways project, which you can learn more about at their website here.


5 Responses to “Post Carbon Pathways”

  1. Johnny Rutherford says:

    Hi Samuel,

    Thanks for drawing my attention to this…but I worry. I am, of course, not an expert and have not studied the numbers in the detail I would like (yet) but I think Trainer makes a pretty convincing case that transition to renewable is going to be a lot more costly and difficult than this report makes out.

    Despite the line questioning ‘unrestrained material consumption’ the report reaffirms the faith that techno-fixes can easily solve the problem: ‘the biggest barriers preventing a rapid transition to a post carbon future are social and political not technological.’ It draws on a variety of reports – several of which Trainer has critiqued at length – to conclude that we can transition at minimal cost. Trainer has shown that several of these reports (WWF, Greenpeece, ZCE etc) do not establish their optimistic conclusions at all well. He estimates that to meet a modest 2050 supply target (for investment and maintenance) would cost around 11% of 2011 world GDP. That is around 17.42 trillion dollars… I am pretty sure (will have to check) that this would be an annual outlay. And this is for a modest supply target – you will need to quadruple that figure to supply the world with the per capita energy us Aussies have.

    Also there is a big problem with intermittency…

    As you have eloquently argued we need degrowth (i just don’t think this economy can deliver it).

  2. Johnny Rutherford says:

    Sorry Sam I widly over-stated…but I think my point is still valid. Ted’s study estimates $7 trillion annual outlay assuming 25 year plant life. Still 7 times the reports estimate (admitedly for 2050 not 2030 though).

  3. Samuel Alexander says:

    Thanks Jonathon, I’ll be doing a post on Trainer’s position in a week or so. He raises questions that almost nobody else is asking, and his contribution to this debate is invaluable. Watch this space…

  4. SJ says:

    I saw professor Ian Lowe speak last week and to my mind, he raised simple questions that nobody else is asking. He refered to population growth. He pointed out that there are roughley 300 people dying in Australia each day. There are about 700 babies born and then another 700 migrants that arrive. What he says is that our population growth is out of control for a first world nation and until we are prepared to debate and discuss the subject, much of the efforts to reduce carbon pollution and all of the other pressures on our natural resourses are a waste of time. I am an advocate of simple living but for the sake of argument, our world could stand a much smaller population, consuming at current rates, perhaps indefinately. At the other end of the scale, we could have more people consuming much less for the same environmental pressure. The existance of this scale should mean that population stabilisation or degrowth should also be an intrinsic part of these discussions. But they are not?

  5. SJ says:

    Samuel, some interesting reading on the taboo P word. I found this link on James Robertsons latest news letter. enjoy

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