The ACT climate change minister says that the current Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the ability of governments to undertake rapid and substantial action in response to an unprecedented crisis, and there is no reason why a similar approach can not be made to address climate change.
Rattenbury told the Stimulus Summit, co-hosted by the Smart Energy Council and RenewEconomy, that while political leaders like prime minister Scott Morrison had begun to speak of a ‘new normal’ following the Covid-19 outbreak, saying that it was crucial that governments use economic stimulus measures to drive investment in clean energy and to set up Australia to be more resilient to such shocks in the long term.
“A ‘better normal’ means recovering from this pandemic, but in a way that doesn’t just exposes us to other global threats like climate change,” Rattenbury said.
“Climate change isn’t going away, and it also presents serious ongoing threats to our health, to the economy, to the environment, and to future generations. If we escape COVID but don’t deal with climate change, we are, almost literally, stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
Rattenbury told the summit that he believed the ACT could serve as an ideal case study that other governments good look to regarding the benefits of acting to reduce emissions, as well as supporting new industries.
“The ACT provides a small but useful case study of climate action leading to economic success. We still have a lot to do in the ACT when it comes to climate change, but we have also made some very good progress in recent years. One of our successes is reaching 100% renewable electricity,” Rattenbury said.
“Jobs growth in the ACT renewable energy sector has grown 12 times faster than the national average,” Rattenbury said. “Forward thinking companies from across Australia – and the world – have set up their businesses in the ACT, thousands of megawatts of renewables around the world are now managed right here in Canberra’s renewables precinct.
“We’ve also had significant investment in cutting edge research and innovation, and to top it off, our energy consumers are enjoying some of the lowest electricity prices in the country.”
The ACT climate change minister echoed the argument made by economist Ross Garnaut earlier at Wednesday’s Stimulus Summit, saying that climate action represents an opportunity to grow economies and it was a mistake to view it as a cost.
“People often present this action as simply being an economic cost. The opposite is in fact true. The primary actions that governments can take to mitigate and adapt to climate change are an economic positive. These actions have the double benefit of helping to dealing with climate change, and also building the kind of city and municipal infrastructure that people want and enjoy,” Rattenbury added.
“For states and territories, the initiatives required to reach zero emissions– such as increasing renewable power generation, planting trees, electrifying transport and improving energy efficiency of buildings – are economically sound approaches that both reduce the risk of climate change impacts, and strengthen economic competitiveness.”
“These initiatives are a win-win. They’re an economically sound approach, where the benefits well outweigh the costs,” Rattenbury added.
Rattenbury added that the rapid response from the federal and state governments to Covid-19 demonstrated that governments to have the ability to move and act quickly in response to a crisis, and this should be a lesson that can be applied to the need for ramping up the response to climate change.
“Often, getting the Government to take action on something is like completing the Twelve Labours of Hercules. But really they can be quite flexible in responding to an emergency when there is political will,” Rattenbury said.
“We’ve convened national cabinets, rapidly created economic initiatives, enacted new regulations, and elevated the leadership status of experts and scientists. That’s a methodology we should carry over into the post Covid world, and we should use it to urgently respond to climate change.”
Latest data on the greenhouse gas emissions of the ACT recorded an 18 per cent fall in emissions during the 2018-19 year. The substantial year-on-year fall was primarily driven by strong progress in the ACT towards achieving its target of sourcing 100 per cent of its electricity from wind and solar.
The ACT government will announce the outcomes of a fresh tender for 200MW of additional renewable energy projects, as well as new large-scale battery projects to be built within the ACT shortly, with the tender outcomes currently being considered by the ACT cabinet.
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