The body established to provide advice to the federal government on climate science and policy says that taking stronger action to cut emissions and transition to a clean energy economy will help bolster Australia’s competitive advantage and should not be viewed as a “cost”.
In a new policy paper published on Friday, the Climate Change Authority says with more countries making commitments to zero net emissions targets, Australia needs to respond to the new economic opportunities being created in low emissions industries or risk being left behind.
“It no longer makes sense to think about lowering carbon emissions as a cost,” the paper says.
“In a world taking increasingly strong action to reduce carbon emissions, and given the trends we see in global trade and investment, lowering emissions is a necessary source of competitive advantage for Australia to continue to grow and prosper,” the paper says.
Crucially, the Climate Change Authority suggests that by taking stronger action on climate change, Australia will be better placed to remain competitive in a global economy and risks lagging behind other countries by failing to respond to accelerating global trends.
“To be competitive as the world decarbonises, we need to lower emissions in all sectors of the economy as quickly as we can,” Climate Change Authority CEO Brad Archer said.
“With Australia’s most significant material exports – fossil fuels, minerals and agriculture – having high emissions or energy intensity in their production and/or when they are used at their final destination, there is a growing competitiveness risk for Australia.”
“As countries raise their emissions reduction targets; foreign investors are looking for low carbon investment opportunities and customers for our exports are seeking low and zero emission alternatives,” Archer added.
Archer said that it is important that Australia looks beyond electricity generation and the land sector – which have been responsible for much of Australia’s emissions reductions to date, and that an economy-wide approach to low emissions development was necessary.
“If Australia does these things well, the economic benefits of our emissions reduction efforts will follow,” Archer said.
“The challenge is for every sector to contribute, whereas progress to date has largely been concentrated in land clearing and electricity generation.”
The Climate Change Authority was established under the former Gillard government to serve as a key source of expert advice on climate change science and policy responses – including emissions reduction targets.
The authority has played a smaller role under Coalition governments, largely ignored by the Morrison government, having been stripped of funding and at one point faced the prospect of being abolished altogether.
It has survived – albeit with a board featuring Coalition government appointees – and authority’s latest “Paris Plus” policy paper has been released just a few weeks ahead of a round of international climate talks to be held in Glasgow.
It also comes amid major negotiations between the Morrison government and its Nationals coalition partners around an Australian commitment to zero net emissions by 2050. Some Nationals MPs have called for massive subsidies to be provided to the mining sector in return for their agreement to a zero net emissions target.
The paper highlights the economic opportunities for Australia embracing stronger commitments to cut emissions, drawing upon a natural competitive advantage that exists in low carbon industries.
“On a trajectory to net zero emissions, governments, investors and consumers around the world will increasingly favour lower emissions products. Decisions taken by others in our export markets will reverberate along global supply chains right back to jobs and growth in the Australian economy,” the paper says.
“Rapidly reducing emissions makes good sense, not just to mitigate climate change but to position the Australian economy to prosper, rather than falter, as the world decarbonises.”
Archer said that with the Morrison government expecting to meet its 2030 emissions reduction target under the Paris Agreement, it was now time to commit to stronger targets.
“With Australia likely on track to meet and exceed its 2030 emissions reduction target, we can turn our minds to increasing ambition and getting on a trajectory to achieve net zero emissions as soon as possible,” Archer said.
“The Climate Change Authority is building the evidence base for Australia’s next Paris Agreement target, which is due to be submitted in 2025.”