ACT residents must be educated on the impact of their consumption habits if the territory is to meet its future emission targets, a report has found.
With ACT having met its target of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020, the purpose of the UNSW report commissioned by the ACT government was to determine the next steps to further reduce the capital's footprint.
Researchers found emissions from the consumption of goods and services created outside the territory made up 83 per cent of the capital's carbon footprint in 2018, with households in the "consumer city" needing to buy less and borrow more if the ACT hoped to achieve net zero by 2045.
Measuring the impact of imported emissions, the report found ACT residents had a worse individual carbon footprint than both the national and international average.
Canberrans reportedly produce almost 35 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person each year, while Australians on average produce 27 tonnes. The global average was found to be around seven.
The findings mean that while making up just 1.6 per cent of Australia's population, the ACT accounts for 2.3 per cent of Australia's carbon footprint.
Study co-author professor Tommy Wiedmann said awareness and education was key to reducing the increased rates of consumption correlated to higher incomes.
"Very broadly speaking the carbon footprint is related relatively closely to the income level because the more you earn the more you spend and every dollar you spend has a carbon load," Prof Wiedmann said.
"Any spending comes with a certain carbon load, there's nothing that is carbon free."
Prof Wiedmann said reducing the carbon footprint was a shared responsibility of both the producer and the consumer, with the ACT's household emissions overwhelmingly related to transport, retail trade and food.
He said informed decision-making was dependent on the consumer having access to information of where their goods and services came from, which was a recommendation for the use of this report.
The ACT Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment have made the following recommendations based on the report:
- Buy less
- Consider the composition and origin of each product you buy
- Buy second hand
- Repair products if possible, and use them for as long as possible
- Reduce waste
- Reduce flights where possible, especially internationally
Prof Wiedmann said while he agreed with the recommendations and adopting those behaviours would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, real impact required a more fundamental shift in thinking.
"If we buy less we save money that we spend elsewhere. People might end up buying less or second-hand clothes but flying to holiday more or buying a bigger car," Prof Wiedmann said.
"This means that we also need to earn less for this to work."
ACT Minister for Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury said the analysis would help government understand the ACT's complete emissions profile, including impacts that occur beyond the borders.
"We have made great progress in cutting our emissions locally, but this report shows that there are great decarbonisation opportunities for us throughout our economy and supply chains," Mr Rattenbury said.
The report outlines a series of recommendations to government, which include introducing emission monitoring reporting, working with jurisdictions to reduce emissions created from imports, as well as a community education and behaviour change campaign.
The ACT government is currently reviewing the recommendations and will supply a formal response in 2022.
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