A low carbon future for WA

The long-awaited Western Australian Climate Policy was released earlier this week; it sets out the State Government’s plan to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and a climate-resilient, prosperous low-carbon future.

It focuses on six key areas:

  1. Clean manufacturing (creating jobs) and future industries;
  2. Transforming energy generation and use;
  3. Storing carbon and caring for our landscapes;
  4. Lower carbon transport;
  5. Resilient cities and regions; and
  6. Government leadership.

There are a whole bunch of initiatives and programs that have been launched in the last year to make these things happen, including $15 million for the WA Carbon Farming Strategy and Land Restoration Program, more than $100 million towards the 100 megawatt big battery, and also:

Clean Energy Future Fund

Underway in April 2020 this Fund has been set up to provide money for the implementation of innovative clean energy projects in WA. Priorities for funding will be decided by the Minister for Environment and Minister for Energy. The current Ministerial priority is:

Innovative clean energy projects at significant facilities in regional and remote Western Australia

and projects should be near investment-ready that:

  • provide a significant, cost-effective reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below projected (or baseline) emissions; and/or
  • design, deploy, test or demonstrate innovative clean energy projects likely to deliver community benefits or lead to broad adoption and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions

Electric Vehicle Strategy

This strategy focuses on how WA will transition to low and zero emission electric vehicles and covers battery, plug-in, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. It also outlines industry and economic opportunities for the State, to be facilitated through the Government’s Future Battery Industry Strategy and Renewable Hydrogen Strategy.

It recognises that widespread adoption of electric vehicles will both reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and improve our urban air quality.

Some of the measures of this Strategy (through an investment of a cool $21 million) include:

  • supporting the creation of an electric vehicle charging infrastructure network north from Perth to Kununurra, along the south west coast to Esperance, and east to Kalgoorlie.;
  • achieving a minimum 25% electric vehicle target for new light and small passenger, and small and medium SUV government fleet vehicles by 2025/26; and
  • developing and updating standards, guidelines, and planning approvals.
Waitsia onshore gas field in WA’s midwest (Source: WAToday)

Some bodies such as the Conservation Council of WA, while acknowledging the positive initiatives of the Climate Policy are also questioning how the 2050 target will be reached as WA’s gas industry (and associated emissions) continues to grow (we are the biggest producer of gas in the country!).

The WA Government’s recently released Waterwise Perth Action Plan also acknowledged our need to become more resilient to climate change. The focus of this plan is on how to transition Perth to a waterwise city by 2030 in order to respond to the impacts of climate change on our water resources and a growing population. It imagines a waterwise Perth as being cool, liveable, green and sustainable, making the best use of its various sources (groundwater, surface water, stormwater, seawater and wastewater) while providing healthy natural environments.

The plan includes:

  • Assistance for households to be more waterwise and reduce annual per person use to 110 kL;
  • Improved water management of sporting ovals and green spaces;
  • All government-led urban development projects in Perth and Peel to be 100% waterwise;
  • METRONET precincts designed to consider all elements of the water cycle;
  • Increased use of recycled water; and
  • Increasing the urban tree canopy to reduce the urban heat island effect. 

Urbaqua has also recently been involved in understanding the impact of climate change on one of WA’s northern regions, the Pilbara. A report prepared for RDA Pilbara Climate change and the Pilbara economy, an overview provides a high-level summary of climate change in the Pilbara and discusses how this may impact the economy of the region. As noted by the World Economic Forum, there is increasing recognition that climate change impacts have significant financial implications which include direct costs associated with damage to property and assets, as well as increased operational costs, or even devalued or stranded assets. These costs affect not only businesses and the community, but also can affect the financial position of a State or country indirectly. e.g. severe events such as floods or fires influencing foreign exchnage rates or GDP when productive capacity is reduced.

The Pilbara Region (Source: Pilbara Development Commission (PDC), 2015)

The report found that the Pilbara region is likely to be exposed to higher temperatures, increased intensity cyclones and extreme rainfall events, sea level rises and increases in evapotranspiration. These trends and hazards will impact on the health of the community and the environment from heat stress, spread of tropical weeds, pests and diseases and lost indigenous spiritual and cultural values. The region’s key economic sectors (Resources (mining and oil and gas), Construction, and Small business and services) are all expected to be impacted to varying degrees with the small business and services sector expected to be affected the most.

Some of the key recommendations to minimising these risks by adapting to climate change in the region included:

  • Exploring how investments in ecosystem services can improve local resilience and development of incentives and cost sharing for adaptation;
  • Improving or importing the expertise including Aboriginal knowledge to identify and assess available adaptation options; and
  • Promoting projects that provide local benefit i.e. mitigating against and adapt to changing climate through reduced use of natural resources; building a sense of community and active participation; improving knowledge of risk management and design implications; and developing planning and emergency response capabilities.

For further information, the RDA Pilbara’s Climate change and the Pilbara economy, an overview report may be found on their website: http://www.rdapilbara.org.au/publications.aspx