Australia could achieve both zero net emissions and a 100 per cent renewable energy mix by 2050 – and both at a relatively low cost, a new report has found.
Published on Tuesday by the Australian National University, the report says that the steady decline in the cost of cutting emissions meant that Australia could afford to be ambitious in its climate and renewables targets.
By way of example, the report notes that large-scale solar plants are already only half the cost that the Treasury’s 2008 and 2011 modelling studies estimated they would be in the year 2030.
The report, commissioned by WWF-Australia ahead of the federal government’s decision on post 2020 emission reduction targets, also predicts that Australia’s economy would continue to grow as deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions were made.
“All major economic modelling studies project that Australia’s economy will grow to approximately two and a half times its current size by 2050, while emissions are cut drastically below current levels,” the report notes.
“Australia can achieve zero net emissions by harnessing energy efficiency, moving to a zero-carbon electricity system, switching from direct use of fossil fuels to decarbonised electricity, and improving industrial processes,” said Report author Associate Professor Frank Jotzo.
“Deep cuts to Australia’s emissions can be achieved, at a low cost,” Jotzo said, adding that Australia’s “abundant renewable resources” meant it was “one of the best placed countries in the world for moving to a fully renewable electricity supply.”
The report also found that cutting emissions could have other significant benefits, beyond protecting Australia from future climate change.
These included reduced air pollution and improved health outcomes, as well as increased energy security in some instances.
The report said these co-benefits would, in many cases, more than cover the costs of low-carbon measures, even before considering their benefit for the global climate.
“Australia needs to do its fair share to help limit global warming to well below 2°C,” said WWF-Australia’s head of climate change, Kellie Caught.
“We need an ambitious, science-based pollution reduction target so that we can ensure Australia’s natural beauty will still be around for our children and future generations.
“The solution is clear: set an ambitous long-term goal for reducing carbon pollution, and take decisive action to make it happen. That’s the kind of leadership hardworking taxpayers deserve – let’s commit to leaving things better than we found them.”