Modelling ambitious climate mitigation pathways for Australia's built environment

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Journal Article
Sustainable Cities and Society, 2022, 77
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Achieving net zero operational and embodied greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the built environment is recognised in Australia and globally as a key strategy to address climate change and achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, gaps in knowledge remain regarding potential national pathways to achieve this outcome in Australia. This study further extends and applies a national-scale integrated macroeconomic simulation model to explore coherent pathways to net zero emissions in the built environment sector by 2050. The scope of the study includes residential and commercial buildings and both operational and embodied emissions. It applies scenario analysis incorporating different levels of climate ambition, including a shift to renewable energy, electrifying buildings, improving energy efficiency and replacing carbon-intensive materials. We find that a high ambition scenario (Scenario 2) delivers a 94% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 when compared against business-as-usual, placing a net-zero target within reach. Improvements on Australia's SDGs performance are also attained. Through subsequent pathways analysis we find that achieving net zero or even net negative operational and embodied emissions is feasible with more ambitious action in key areas, including increasing the share of mass-timber buildings and reducing end-of-life losses in sequestered carbon.
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