Australian researchers help keep emission targets on track

University of Queensland researchers have developed a simple method to determine if fossil fuel producers are on track to meet global emission reduction targets. It is the first study of its kind in the world.

The method was developed out of research that investigated a sample of 20 world-leading investor-owned and state-owned entities and compared fossil fuel extraction rates with global climate goals.

Researcher Saphira Rekker said two key elements in tackling climate change have been largely resolved: a safe limit of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere and a corresponding remaining carbon budget.

“Combustion of current fossil fuel reserves has the potential to push global average temperatures higher than 2°C by 2050, however it is far from clear how the remaining carbon budget could be reasonably allocated across fossil fuels producers,” Rekker said.

Recognising the need for transparent methods to measure climate change obligations, researchers translated the global fossil fuel remaining carbon budget into a burnable fossil fuel allowance for individual producers.

A 40-year allowance was set for each of the 20 sampled producers for the years 2011–2050, based on 2010 fossil fuel reserves and production rates. The study demonstrated that different methods of allocation had different “winners and losers”.

Associate Professor Jacquelyn Humphrey said allocating the remaining carbon budget was necessary to track the performance of individual producers against global climate targets.

“One of the challenges is that the current measures of corporate sustainability don’t necessarily map to science-based targets,” Humphrey said.

The research is an important example of how global sustainability indicators can be scaled down to individual players in the economy.


Image credit: kris krüg via Flickr

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