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Developing a model of carbon sources and sinks for Indigenous communities in Australia

Stewart, J., Harper, R.J. and Anda, M. (2011) Developing a model of carbon sources and sinks for Indigenous communities in Australia. In: Chan, F., Marinova, D. and Anderssen, R.S. (eds) MODSIM2011, 19th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, 12 - 16 December, Perth, Western Australia pp. 3085-3091.

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The transition to a low carbon economy provides potential opportunities for Indigenous communities living in remote areas of Australia. Recent studies and trial projects indicate a range of potential benefits from carbon management programs such as early season fire management, bio-sequestration, bioenergy production, and energy monitoring services. Remote Indigenous communities in Australia typically have few employment opportunities, and the health and socio-economic statistics of residents indicate several disadvantages compared to the average non-Indigenous Australian. Despite this many communities maintain a strong culture and a wealth of traditional knowledge, particularly in relation to natural resource management. These carbon management programs offer potential employment and business development prospects that utilise Indigenous knowledge and are in keeping with their caring for country preferences. There is little published information on the carbon profiles of these communities but they are expected to be highly carbon intensive due to their frequent reliance on diesel-powered electricity generators, fossil-fuelled vehicles that need to travel vast distances and housing that often requires energy-intensive thermal conditioning. Hence, efforts are also required to help reduce carbon emissions and associated costs, particularly rising electricity and fuel prices from direct use or those embedded in goods and services. To ascertain whether implementation of proposed carbon management programs can be combined to mitigate carbon emissions a method for estimating and comparing emission abatement across a range of scenarios is required. A carbon accounting model that quantifies the estimated carbon that can be mitigated from sources and sequestered in sinks for a given community has been developed. The model combines two methods of measurement: life cycle analysis and land use modelling techniques. LCA is an assessment of impacts throughout a product's life, or "cradle to grave", including raw material acquisition, through production, use and disposal. The AS/NZS ISO standard 14040:1998 Environmental Management- Life cycle assessment - principles and framework outlines the requirements and process for undertaking a life cycle impact assessment. The life cycle analysis is applied in the model to estimate key emission sources for greenhouse gases broadly categorised as follows: materials used for construction and maintenance, construction processes including transport, operating energy supply and demand, transport during the occupancy phase, water systems, and solid waste. Because a full life cycle analysis can be a time and data intensive undertaking only significant items in the community are included and some emissions related to transport and waste are based on annual inventory methods only. Embedded within the life cycle analysis is the model to estimate carbon sinks. The carbon sinks are modelled using a method in accordance with IPCC guidelines for land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). This takes into account conversions for a variety of land use categories and, where significant, sub-categories of biomass, dead organic matter and soil. This allows sinks to be estimated within defined limits of uncertainty and a total sequestration quantity to be approximated. The combination of the two measurement methods provides an overall carbon cycle for a community and an estimate of the potential to provide climate change mitigation capacity including a quantitative basis for further economic analysis.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand
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