Office for Environmental Programs - Theses
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BARRIERS TO THE ADOPTION OF SOIL CARBON SEQUESTRATION PROJECTS IN VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
The potential of soil carbon sequestration (SCS) as a method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been globally recognised through the establishment of various policy initiatives. The success of these policies is largely dependent on the participation of farmers and landholders. In Australia, the government introduced policies such as the Emissions Reduction Fund, and the Carbon Farming Initiative in order to incentivize the adoption of SCS practices. Despite these legislative developments and their associated positive incentives, the widespread adoption of these practices has so far not been realised, suggesting that there are substantial barriers that prevent farmers and landholders from adopting SCS projects. This literature review will focus on assessing these barriers in Victoria, as the state has engaged the lowest percentage of SCS project proponents among all Australian states. The review will also address these impediments at the catchment scale by using the Goulburn Broken Catchment (GBC) as a case study. By reviewing policies, strategies, and legislation relevant to SCS in Victoria, five key components have been identified under which the barriers to adoption are associated. They include project requirements and liabilities, additional costs and economic risks, issues with carbon markets, lack of information and trust, and farmer perceptions and motivations. In addition to these barriers, within the GBC the misalignment of SCS with the catchment’s priorities, and lack of integration of actions have also been identified as important constraints. To mitigate these barriers the review concludes with a brief outline of the changes that are required in policy and government initiatives to stimulate the widespread uptake of SCS projects and allow these projects to play a significant role in meeting Australia’s emission reductions targets. Furthermore, research is also warranted on the perspectives of farmers and landholders within the land sectors of Victoria to better understand and mitigate these barriers to SCS project adoption.
Effects of the land-use change on fire patterns in the Gran Chaco ecoregion
The Gran Chaco landscape was made up of an aggregate of dry forests, savannas, and grasslands, maintained by periodic fires produced by native populations. However, it has observed various modifications in land use over the last centuries. First, the fire regimes decreased due to the introduction of domestic herbivores and a consequent reduction in fine fuels and brush encroachment. More recently, towards the second half of the last century, there was an increase in the frequency of fires associated with prescribed burns aimed at the control of woodland. This research project studied the influence of land-use change in the fire patterns of the Gran Chaco Ecoregion by through (i) a temporal analysis of land cover change, (ii) a temporal analysis of burned area, and (iii) an analysis of the effect of cropping extent on area burned. The spatial analysis was performed with data products derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). This spatial analysis was performed over a temporal series of 18 years, from the year 2001 to the year 2019. The pre-processing of the data was performed on Google Earth Engine and the statistical analysis was done through R studio version 4.0.0. The results show that the Gran Chaco is under constant change of land use that result in modifications of the landscape. The main findings were that the increase of croplands and grasslands area increased for the first nine years and then decreased while the burned area showed a decrease tendency at the beginning of the study period. These changes in the landscape vary depending on the area of the Gran Chaco being observed, as well on the time frame considered. According to the analysis, the cropland and grassland areas increased during the first half of the study period, while the burned area decreased. On the last years of the study period, cropland and grassland decreased, while burned area presented more variability. The decrease of croplands and grasslands can be as consequence of land abandonment. As for the geographical distribution of changes, the area of the Gran Chaco that observed greater changes during the study period was the fraction located in Paraguay. The unexpected initial high rates of burned area can be related to the historical use of the fire to clear the land.
Effects of vegetation structure, fire and habitat amount on microbat functional diversity
Human modification of land cover and disturbance regimes is occurring at unprecedented rates globally, and often results in significant biodiversity loss. However, it is often unclear how the loss of species affects ecosystem function. The relationship between ecosystem function and biodiversity depends on the functional traits and niches filled by organisms, as these traits respond to and drive ecosystem processes. Functional diversity describes the range, value and distribution of traits and is a better predictor of ecosystem function than species richness. This study investigated the effects of vegetation structure, fire and habitat amount on microbat functional diversity. Using passive acoustic monitoring, we surveyed microbats at 140 sites over two years. Four bat functional traits were used to calculate four functional diversity indices (richness, evenness, divergence and dispersion). The influence of vegetation structural complexity, time since fire and habitat amount on bat functional diversity and species richness was examined using generalised linear models. With the exception of one measure of functional diversity, time since fire did not influence any of the response variables. In contrast, vegetation structural complexity was a much stronger predictor of functional diversity than time since fire, with functional diversity increased in more structurally open environments. Both functional evenness and functional dispersion of bats were both positively associated with habitat amount, indicating that increased habitat amount results in reduced environmental filtering and an increased breadth of functional roles performed by the bat community. Finally, FD responses often depended on the survey year, indicating that responses were influenced by temporal variability in background conditions. These findings suggest that management for biodiversity should be focused on optimising vegetation structure through the use of fire, rather than focusing on fire regime alone. Further, management actions that protect and increase habitat amount should, therefore, increase overall bat functional diversity arising from the increased abundance of foraging and roosting resources available. Lastly, long-term monitoring programs measure species responses across a variety of conditions, thereby providing more representative evidence to develop well informed management decisions.
Fossil Free: a case-study of the University of Melbourne
Fossil Free is a global movement, calling on institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies. In 2013, students from the University of Melbourne (the University) formed the Fossil Free Melbourne Uni (FFMU) campaign, calling on the University to divest its endowment fund from fossil fuels. FFMU exerted significant influence on sustainability governance and responsible investment practices in the University, but divestment was not achieved. This case study investigates the interaction between the FFMU campaign and the University, looking into why divestment was not agreed to, and the University’s response to the campaign, from both a student and University perspective. The study provides an opportunity to expand the relatively limited scholarship on institutional (resistance to) change in universities.
Service Sector Development in Bangladesh:
An Approach towards Environmental Sustainability
‘Made in Bangladesh’ is a globally renowned name in the ready-made garment (RMG) export market. However, this accomplishment comes with an exhaustive environmental footprint. The industry simultaneously pollutes surface water and depletes groundwater. Regardless of the overarching damage, RMG manufacturing industries continue to flourish in Bangladesh. Thus, concurrent challenges and limitations arise. These issues need to be overcome by broadening the scope of the service sector, while also reducing dependency on the cheap, labour-intensive RMG manufacturing industry. This study examines the extent to which Bangladesh must embrace the service sector and environmental sustainability to overcome the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). This research focuses on why and how Bangladesh should concentrate on the service sector, despite it having a strong position in the competitive global RMG market. This study found that challenges to RMG are the result of a history of exploitation, as well as an existing dependency on abundant cheap manual labour. Furthermore, the application of Porter’s Diamond model in the study shows that the phase-out of Multifiber Arrangement (MFA) is another challenge associated with global competitiveness. Limitations on adopting automation and innovation in the industry have also been a major challenge, resulting in recent layoffs and declining orders. In addition, COVID-19, along with western efforts to reduce fast fashion consumption, has slowed down demand. The use of advanced technology would further result in significant changes to the labour market and the loss of manual labour jobs, adversely affecting the labour force, which predominantly comprises women. Although industrial automation has already begun in Bangladesh, a larger roll-out in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector is still required. To cope with the situation, seizing the advantage of an ongoing demographic dividend until 2040 and training the manual labour force to be adaptable, with both soft and hard skills, will help Bangladesh to meet the challenges of the 4IR and avoid an economic downturn. These initiatives would also contribute less to environmental degradation. Altogether, this thesis offers a holistic approach to unveiling the opportunities of service sector development to reduce pervasive environmental pollution in Bangladesh.
Exploration of Hindrances, Initiatives and Solutions for The Future Production of Zero Energy Homes in Victoria
This paper aims at investigating the energy status of today's conventional houses and the development of zero energy houses and exploring hindrances, initiatives and solutions for the future production of zero energy homes in Victoria, Australia. Nowadays, there is increasing global attention to built environment and energy. The Victorian government has also significantly promoted the production of zero energy houses because low-rise houses are the main type of residential buildings in Victoria, especially in regional areas. However, zero energy homes have not been mass-produced. Therefore, hindrances and barriers of builders and construction companies regarding zero energy houses shall be explored. Relevant key words are identified and focused including zero energy homes and Victorian homes to discover the current status, barriers and future trends of Victoria's zero energy housing production. The purpose of this study is to explore barriers to the development of zero energy houses in Victoria and derive appropriate initiatives and solutions for the future mass production. Detailed literature review and questionnaire will be used as research methods to collect both primary and secondary data from the various database and Victorian builders. Also, quantitative and qualitative analysis such as correlation analysis, statistical t-test and association rule mining will be used through SPSS software to find the relationship between considerations of zero energy house builders and conventional builders on the production of zero energy houses in Victoria. After comparing and discussing attitudes and perceptions of conventional builders and zero energy home builders, the results demonstrate that culture can be seen as the significant hindrance of Victorian builders today and improvement of the market value of zero energy homes is the most important initiative of the development of zero energy homes in Victoria. Compared with conventional builders, zero energy builders are more energy-conscious and willing to take proactive actions to reduce energy consumption in houses. In the future, the cooperation and efforts of multiple stakeholders to improve culture and technology will be the solution for the large-scale development of Victoria's zero energy housing.
How do Australian apartments perform against international standards to prevent overheating risks?
With the challenge of global warming, high-rise residential buildings are continuously showing an overheating trend. Due to the lack of consideration for building overheating issues in National Construction Code (NCC), many high-performance and low-energy buildings cannot meet international overheating criteria. Thus, this report mainly discuss the overheating performance of high-rise residential buildings that have met the National Construction Code (NCC) requirements in Australia under extreme weather condition from the building facade perspective. In addition, international overheating criteria (CIBSE overheating standard) will be adopted as a judging criteria. In the research process, the latest dynamic simulation software (IESVE) will be used to construct a detailed 3D model to represent the performance of the proposed building in a virtual environment. The results show that the requirements of building facade in NCC 2019 are far from meeting international overheating criteria. On this basis, this report proposes four modified methods for building facade including improving glazing insulation, adjusting glazing area, changing building orientation and adopting shading devices. Furthermore, the international overheating criteria has been modified to adapt to Australian condition. At last, the impacts of future climate change on the development of Australian standard have been discussed.
Did utility-scale energy storage sites reduce or increase carbon emissions in Australia’s National Electricity Market in 2019?
This report investigates the impact of five utility-scale lithium-ion battery and three pumped hydro sites on the net carbon emissions of the National Electricity Market (NEM) grid during 2019. Each site, through arbitrage actions intended to maximise revenues, time shifted energy stored during low-price and high-emissions periods of the day to generation during high-price and lower-emissions time periods. Throughout the 2019 calendar year, the combined impact deriving from the activity of these sites was found to be an increase of 254,227 tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent (tCO2e), a net increase of 0.17% for the NEM. Nearly 90% of the emissions were associated with the three pumped hydro sites. New South Wales experienced the highest net emissions increase. The two Victorian-based lithium-ion batteries contributed the highest CO2e per Megawatt hour of generation. Seasonally, it was found that emissions were greatest in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia during the spring months. In New South Wales, incremental emissions during the summer months were from two to six times greater than during the other seasons. Policy recommendations aimed at ensuring utility-scale storage does not increase total emissions in the NEM are discussed. These included introducing a carbon price, provision of subsidies, new markets and incentives for storage development, and government funding for research, design and development (RD&D) to improve efficiency and lifespan of storage.
Causal drivers of firm participation in private regulatory programs: A case study of the Australian Coffee Market
Australia is a leader in the global coffee world due to its dedication to high quality coffee and strong café culture. This market has become increasingly competitive as cafes and coffee roasteries have saturated urban environments across the nation. There are currently 200 Australian firms in the coffee industry participating in global supply chain certifications such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ and ‘the Pledge,’ yet to date few independent studies have investigated the market dynamics influencing firm decisions to participate in these voluntary programs. Private regulatory programs rely on firms to make voluntary commitments to comply with the protocols and standards set out in the scheme. However, much of the academic literature provides limited insight into the motivations and drivers for firms to voluntarily comply with private regulatory programs. In response to this gap, this thesis examines a case study of the Australian Coffee Market where a number of privately governed certifications and standards are operating and competing to regulate Australian firms. On this basis, the thesis attempts to provide credible grounds to model the types of motivations to participate and identify causal drivers to inform future investigations that seek to explain firm decisions to participate in private regulation. This thesis finds evidence that firms are motivated by a number of drivers that are contextually dependent. Firms respond that respond to ethical, norm following drivers are evidence of social constructivist theories, whilst firms driven to pursue self-interest maximisation are evidence of rational business strategies. The size of the firm is an interaction variable that enables large firms to pursue their core business values, whilst impeding the ability of small and medium sized firm from pursuing their core business values.
Alienating or engaging?: The role of ontological security and consumer coping in complex sustainable consumption environments - the case of certified wine
Consumers are in many ways made to be one of the central actors in the discourse on transitions to more sustainable consumption and production models globally. Consumption naturally spans across many industries, but one of the most significant contributors to environmental degradation, entwined in daily consumption practices, is the agriculture and food system sector. Supported, in part by market-driven and neoliberal regimes and approaches to agricultural management, private regulation, including sustainability certification have emerged strongly in the past few decades. The purpose of this research is to explore the role of sustainability certification in shifting consumer behaviour to adopt more sustainable consumption practices by taking a deeper look at consumer engagement with sustainable consumption and associated certification schemes. To probe these central questions, this paper turns to theories of trust, ontological security and coping to understand how consumers process the demands of sustainable consumption and how certification plays into this processing. An inductive, grounded theory approach was taken in analysing semi-structured interview data from 14 one-on-one interviews and one friendship group with 7 participants. Findings from the study allowed construction of a novel theoretical model which describes consumer responses to the interaction with, as well as opportunities and demands of sustainable consumption. In drawing on Giddens’ framework of ontological security and theories of coping, the model makes the following four contributions to theory: (1) It maps consumers’ dynamic coping responses as called for in the coping literature (Skinner et al., 2003), (2) it extends our view of rational and emotional trust as underlying drivers of security, (3) it demonstrates new states of ontological security (as called for by Phipps and Ozanne (2017), and (4) it extends our view and definition of ‘disruption’ and associated consumer responses. Importantly it explores an area of ‘untouchable’ security, where consumers have effectively resigned from sustainable consumption efforts, and questions to what extent collective sustainable consumption offerings may indeed be alienating consumers from sustainability transitions. The findings also develop a series of hypothesis for the implications of certification as it relates to the theoretical model. This research was undertaken in the context of the Australia domestic wine industry, using the industry’s sustainability certification, Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, as a case study.
A Bayesian analysis of climate change risks for the Japanese pulp and paper industry
The business sector is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in Japan, and it has faced various physical impacts caused by climate change. However, the knowledge of how the business sector in Japan should react to climate change risks and impacts is still limited. With regard to the significant values of the pulp and paper industry, this study aimed to identify the key challenges for the Japanese pulp and paper industry to adapt climate change risks. The review on academic literature revealed the major physical climate risks in Japan: intensive rainfall-related risks; drought risks; and extreme heat risks. Using the result of the literature review, a conceptual model was developed which describes cause and effect between climate change events and a pulp and paper manufacturer. Finally, the conceptual model was quantified as a Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) to explore the probability of risks to manufacturing and business continuity under various scenarios. To evaluate uncertainty, a sensitivity analysis was implemented to test the model and examine the influence of each variable to the key endpoints in the BBN, and best-case, worst-case and most-likely case models were developed based on the findings. The impacts of climate change on hypothetical companies were then explored using these three models. The result of the sensitivity analysis showed strong influences of ‘Drought’, ‘Suppliers risk’, ‘Financial resource’ and ‘Backup facilities’ compared with ‘Extreme rainfalls’ and ‘Extreme heat’. Similarly, two main points were obtained from the results of case studies: (1) Greater risks to a plant in West Japan than East and North Japan region; and (2) Greater risks to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) without sufficient adaptive capacities. Through running the BBN, three main implications were highlighted: (1) The importance of recognising drought risks and preparing for the risk; (2) Possible relocations of pulp and paper plants from West Japan to other areas; and (3) Challenges for SMEs to obtain financial resources for mitigating the risks to manufacturing and gaining resilience.
Risk matrices for effective environmental management
Risk matrices are the most common tool for environmental decision-making in organisations. However, it is constantly seen how organisations fail to protect the environment from the risks their activities, products and services pose to it, implying that better decisions and controls need to be made, and that environmental risk matrices should be examined as an effective decision-making tool. This problem is aggravated considering that risk is perceived, assessed and mitigated differently amongst organisations. This can become a serious problem if organisations that can pose a significant impact on the environment do not align their decisionmaking models with that of environmental regulators who initiate enforcement actions, and justice entities who determine the level of enforcement. In this regard, the current study examined the environmental decision-making tool used by organisations and their level of alignment with those used by environmental regulators, and their ability to achieve effective environmental management considering ISO 14001:2015 as a framework for continual improvement of environmental performance. Five structured interviews were performed with four organisations that develop industrial activities and one environmental regulator in Victoria. Data from the interviews were analysed using a thematic analysis methodology supported by the use of the software NVivo to determine the quality of their environmental decision-making tools and the level of alignment between organisations and environmental regulators. Results showed that despite organisations’ environmental decision-making tool can be improved, they are constantly used as a tool to support decisions to protect the environment and the achievement of objectives. In addition, it was found that there is alignment between organisations and regulators’ environmental decision-making tool which indicates that organisations are trying to incorporate the approach used by regulators with the aim to better protect the environment and prevent them from enforcement actions. This study highlights the importance of using and designing an environmental decision-making tool that effectively guides organisations to make the right decisions to protect the environment while meeting environmental objectives and being in compliance with the regulations.