Experts say Australia can achieve zero net emissions by 2050, living within its recommended carbon budget and using technologies that exist today, while still growing the economy.

But the tricky part is – how do we get there?

Researchers at ANU and other local institutions have come together to produce the 2050 Pathways Calculator website, aimed at helping individuals and businesses achieve what some policy-makers believe cannot be done.

The online tool demonstrates various ways to get to zero net emissions by 2050, allowing users to create their own way of reducing human impacts on ecology.

International authorities have agreed to limit warming to 2 degrees Celcius, which means that the world can only emit around 1,700 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured in CO2-equivalent) between 2000 and 2050. This action would give the planet a 67 per cent chance of limiting warming to the agreed level.

But just over a third of this budget was used up between 2000 and 2012, leaving a remaining global carbon budget of approximately 1,100 billion tonnes.

“Global emissions are currently projected to rise without further actions, putting us on a pathway to exceed this carbon budget and experience temperature rises of 4 degrees C or more,” says ANU research and contributor to the new website, Dr Anna Skarbek

“The Climate Change Authority has calculated Australia’s equitable share of the global carbon budget as 10.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for the period 2013 to 2050.

“If we continue to emit at our current rate, we will exceed our carbon budget by 2028 – that’s just 13 years from now.”

“If we are to live within our carbon budget, we must begin to reduce emissions now. This will allow us to use our remaining budget over a longer period of time and enable a smoother transition to a low carbon Australia. If we delay, the transition will need to be faster, meaning more cost and more disruption.”

More details are available in a Dr Skarbek’s article about the website, published at The Conversation.