Sydney – Australia’s Outback could serve as a massive “pollution bank”, cutting carbon emissions by 5% by 2030, with better land management and a cull of feral animals, environmentalists said on Wednesday.
A study commissioned by the Pew Environment Group and Nature Conservancy found curbing land-clearing and wildfires, and promoting the re-growth of native vegetation, could help reduce pollution.
“Due to its enormous size, the Outback environment is able to store huge amounts of carbon, so it serves as a massive pollution bank for Australia and the planet,” said project spokesperson Barry Traill.
The study found that 9.7 billion tonnes of carbon is stored in Australia’s central forests, grass and woodlands, and Pew spokesperson Patrick O’Leary said much more could be done.
“Well over a billion tonnes can be stored between now and 2050 if we can put into practice better land management,” O’Leary told public broadcaster ABC.
“This would be the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road every year for the next 40 years.”
He added that culling some of the large, non-native animals released into Australia’s wild, such as water buffalo and camels – which have reached plague proportions in some areas – would slash methane emissions.
“When feral animals belch they release methane, a particularly noxious greenhouse gas, and every single camel or water buffalo releases the equivalent of around one tonne of carbon dioxide each year,” he said.
“When you’ve got hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions, of these feral animals, it’s a very large amount of pollution each year.”
Australia is the world’s highest per capita producer of carbon emissions, and climate change is set to be a key issue in upcoming elections.