The Dematerialization Potential of the Australian Economy
In this paper we test the long term dematerialization potential for Australia in terms of materials, energy, and water use as well as CO2 emissions, by introducing concrete targets for major sectors. Major improvements in the construction and housing, transport and mobility, and food and nutrition sectors in the Australian economy, if coupled with significant reductions in the resource export sectors, would substantially improve the current material, energy and emission intensive pattern of Australia’s production and consumption system. Using the Australian Stocks and Flows framework we model all system interactions to understand the contributions of large scale changes in technology, infrastructure and lifestyle to decoupling the economy from the environment. The modelling shows a considerable reduction in natural resource use, while energy and water use decrease to a much lesser extent because a reduction in natural resource consumption creates a trade-off in energy use. It also shows that trade and economic growth may continue, but at a reduced rate compared with a business-as-usual scenario. The findings of our modelling are discussed in light of the large body of literature on dematerialization, eco-efficiency and rebound effects that may occur when efficiency is increased. We argue that Australia cannot rely on incremental efficiency gains but has to undergo a sustainability transition to achieve a low carbon future to keep in line with the international effort to avoid climate change and resource use conflicts. We touch upon the institutional changes that would be required to guide a sustainability transition in the Australian economy, such as, for instance, an emission trading scheme.
|Date of creation:||Oct 2008|
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Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series
2008-08, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
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