We have a roadmap, but is the path clear?

The urgency and the opportunity.

Let’s face it. Global efforts to address climate change have been nowhere near sufficient. Australia, and most other countries around the world, need to do much better.

But do we need a roadmap, or a just an easier path to follow?

The Technology Investment Roadmap paper released by the Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister in June this year is indeed a much needed initiative for progressing the wide number of technologies we need to achieve zero (and negative) emissions. It is encouraging to know that many of the technologies we need are ready and waiting to be deployed. Indeed some key technologies have been developed to a point where they are now cheaper than traditional methods of supporting our society. 

But it’s the speed with which we are deploying these technologies which is lacking. Solar panels and wind turbines have been possible for 40 years or more – so why has it taken us so long to start deploying these? Sure there has been a lot needed on R&D to make them cost effective, but it was only when governments sponsored and subsidised the rollout, that mass production kicked in and the prices came right down.

When you think about it, it’s remarkable that clean energy technologies are now proving to be cheaper as well as healthier and better for our future than fossil fuel energy, despite the fact that the fossil fuel industry does not have to pay the long term social and environmental costs that clean energy technologies will avoid. It would make the battle for climate stability a lot more expensive if this were not the case. Of course electricity generation is only a quarter of our problem. What about the cost for transitioning the other GHG producing sectors of our economy.

It is widely agreed by economists and business leaders that a price on carbon emissions is the best way to achieve a smooth and swift transition to all the technologies we need. Unfortunately Australian federal politics has managed to demonise any form of carbon pricing despite clear evidence that it is a very effective solution which doesn’t need to impact taxpayers or the economy. A price on carbon would accelerate the adoption of the Roadmap’s preferred technologies without any significant downside, but both sides of politics run scared of it because they have failed to sell it to voters. Quite the contrary.

There are other ways of deploying the technologies needed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions of course, and we would support any of them that can have the desired effect. What are lacking at present in Australia are appropriate federal policies, plans or realistic targets to achieve a smooth and effective transition to zero emissions as quickly as is needed.

Atmospheric concentration of CO2 measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii  NOAA.GOV .
Very high and well away from the continents, Mauna Loa’s measurements
are considered representative of the world’s average CO2 level.

Only by listening to and acting on the science can our society flatten (and reverse) this curve and emulate our government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Failing to listen to climate science is far worse than doing nothing about Covid and allowing the virus to rip through the population.

Responding to the Governments Roadmap discussion paper, we made these points:

  • While developing new technologies is still extremely important, big gains need to be made right now by deploying existing technologies.
  • CCLA’s preferred mechanism to deploy a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend would provide a strong foundation for new technological solutions while boosting the economy and benefitting low and middle income Australians.
  • Australia is a significant global player and not only needs to be working more quickly on climate solutions, but should encourage other countries to do the same.
  • While there are some costs in the transition to clean technologies, there are also huge benefits for Australia given our abundance of available clean energy.    

The Opportunity

Climate change, like any threat, can also be an opportunity. 

Yes Australia has a heap of coal and gas still in the ground but we also have more clean sun and wind than nearly any other nation. We owe it to our fossil fuel industries to give them a clear price signal to enable them to transition smoothly to zero carbon alternatives rather than face the extreme disruption that a sudden future change will bring. As Ross Garnaut points out in his most recent book, Australia is in a commanding position to be a key supplier of carbon neutral resources to the world. Competitive emission-free steel, aluminium, silicon, ammonia, lithium, hydrogen, other key resources, and of course pure energy are all possible exports with the natural resources, knowledge and skills we possess. Australia is in the box seat to become a renewable energy superpower. 

Soon enough our trading partners will be asking about the carbon content of our products. The EU and the UK are beginning to carefully examine their supply chains already. Others will follow.

Our government can transition us to be a climate action leader and a renewable energy superpower. Let’s support them in this great endeavour.

Media Coordinator, Tom Hunt

 

Main image: Traffic at Arc de Triumph, Paris, c/o Tom
Creating the political will for a liveable world