CO2 reduction, renewables top sustainability trends

Dundonnell Crookwell 3

With global climate, energy, and sustainability challenges set to intensify, Australian technology company Calix has identified some of the key trends that have emerged in the past 10 years and why they are likely to accelerate, and dominate, in the next decade.

1. Reducing CO2 emissions

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are largely accepted to contribute to climate change, with governments around the world setting targets to reduce these emissions as well as setting up emissions trading schemes whereby companies must pay for the CO2 they emit under ‘cap and trade’ type systems. From 2021, the European Commission will be reducing the CO2 cap by 2.2 per cent each year. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has consequently seen the price of CO2 rise from less than three euros per tonne in 2013 to 25 euros per tonne in August 2018. That price has backed off slightly however the over-arching trend represents considerable pressure on companies to reduce their emissions. While the US and China don’t have an ETS/‘cap and trade’ system, China is closing down old cement plants with high emissions and building new plants that will create fewer emissions.

2. Creating renewable energy

While energy prices are high in Australia, they pale in comparison to the prices in some parts of Asia. This can be offset by using biogas for energy, which can be achieved by capturing more methane from agriculture activities. The effluent load in untreated wastewater includes carbon, which can be converted into methane, and burned to provide power. The agricultural sector is therefore looking for ways to improve the efficiency of methane production.

3. Making crop protection safer

In Europe, fungicides and pesticides need to be re-registered every 10 years to ensure they comply with stringent safety standards. Many of the products in use currently are unlikely to achieve re-registration in the next few years, creating demand for safer alternatives. The cost to develop a new crop protection product averages US$250 million and 10 years but farmers need safe, affordable crop protection products now. There is increased interest in products that are safer and better for the environment, such as mineral-based sprays that improve productivity and boost resistance to pests and diseases.

4. Feeding the growing human population

As developing countries begin to adopt more sophisticated farming techniques, the downstream effects will become more pronounced. This is important across all forms of food production and, particularly, aquaculture. Aquaculture can be an environmentally negative activity where uneaten food and waste material from the animals being farmed turns into sludge downstream. To make this industry more sustainable, aquaculture operators need to find a way to efficiently break down these polluting sludges, as well as increase yields through lower disease and higher feed / product efficiencies.

5. Protecting ageing infrastructure

Many of the developed world’s sewers are reaching the end of their 50- or 100-year lifespan, damaged and corroded by decades of use and increasing biological loads due to changes in food and detergents. Replacing this infrastructure is prohibitively expensive and, in some cases, impossible. Rehabilitation and protection are, therefore, very attractive alternatives to massive replacement infrastructure spending.

6. Making better batteries

The increased interest in electric vehicles and the need for efficient, cheap, and high-capacity electricity storage means there is a global demand for better batteries. There will be a need to create advanced materials for lithium ion batteries that deliver superior performance at a fraction of the cost.