REPORT: Large-scale abatement potential of the Australian land sector

Analysis indicates that the abatement contribution of the Australian land sector has potential to be vast, with increased investment in land sequestration and tighter land clearing controls able to deliver comparable cumulative abatement (500-950 Mt) as the complete phase out of fossil fuels from the Transport (100 Mt) and Electricity (500-700 Mt) sectors.

This positions the land sector as a significant pillar of Australia’s long-term decarbonisation plan, underscoring the potential role the land sector can play in Australia’s national emissions reduction policy framework, while supporting the deep decarbonisation of the economy as it transitions to net zero emissions prior to 2050.

In this report, we analyse the potential role of the land-use sector to support Australia’s 2030 emissions target, modelling the abatement potential of increased investment in land sequestration, and policy targeting emissions reductions and removals attributed to land clearing (deforestation).

Key findings include:

  • The land sector’s ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is vast, with between 200 million – 1.1 billion tonnes of potential CO2 sequestration possible by 2030 through direct investment of between $5 – 50 billion.
  • Should emissions from deforestation be phased out by 2030 through the tightening of vegetation laws, analysis indicates that between 300 and 650 million tonnes (Mt) of cumulative emissions reductions may be achieved between 2021-30. If governments acted faster and phased out land-clearing emissions by 2020, this would add an additional 100 Mt to the cumulative total to 2030.
  • Combined, $5bn investment in land sequestration plus tighter land clearing controls can deliver 50 per cent of Australia’s abatement task to its 2030 target. Analysis indicates that an additional $5 billion investment in sequestration, combined with the phase out of land clearing, can deliver between 500 and 850 Mt of abatement by 2030. Should investment in sequestration be extended to $10 billion, total abatement from the land sector would increase to between 600 Mt – 950 Mt.
  • At these levels, total land-sector abatement (500-950 Mt) is of the same magnitude as the complete phase out of fossil fuels from sectors such as transport (100 Mt) and electricity (500 – 700 Mt).
  • Early investment can achieve larger amounts of abatement. For example, in extending the analysis to 2050, findings indicate that the phase out of land clearing, and investment of just $5 billion today, would result in over 2,000 Mt of abatement by 2050.
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