The Australian Conservation Foundation has warned that Australia will continue to struggle with future economic challenges unless it heeds the lessons of past crises to avoid an unsustainable recovery.
In releasing a new vision for a green recovery, the ACF has sought to send a message to governments that they must avoid supporting “dinosaur” industries like the fossil fuel sector, and instead direct support to new, green, industries.
“At this critical moment in Australia’s history there is a serious risk our governments will be so determined to get everything back up and running quickly that we will repeat the mistakes of the past,” ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.
The environmental group sought to remind governments that Covid-19 was not the only economic challenge that Australia has faced this year, with many parts of Australia will struggling to recover from damaging bushfires that raged throughout the summer.
“The pandemic is not the only national crisis to hit Australians this year, coming off the back of unprecedented and deadly bushfires and drought, made worse by climate change,” O’Shanassy said.
The Australian Conservation Foundation said that it was crucial that governments heeded the lessons learnt following from previous economic crises, which saw pollution surge back to normal levels during the period of recovery.
Presenting a proposal for how both federal and state governments could work to drive a green stimulus of the Australian economy, the Australian Conservation Foundation released their ‘Recover, Rebuild, Renew‘ report.
The report outlines how measures, such as investments in energy efficiency and the roll-out of energy storage technologies, investing in sustainable transport and enhanced environmental protection laws can both help Australia recover economically, while also avoiding negative environmental impacts.
“Climate pollution skyrocketed after the global financial crisis. After the summer we’ve just experienced, we can’t afford any more climate fuelled damage to our lives or economy.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation also called for new government investment in energy infrastructure that would support a reliable electricity system while the uptake of wind and solar grows.
Such investment could include accelerated delivery of new electricity transmission network infrastructure, the completion of large-scale battery storage and pumped-hydro storage projects, and expanding Australia’s renewable energy export capabilities.
According to the ACF, such development would help the Australian economy become more resilient to potential future economic crises, while also supporting the creation of a huge number of new jobs and investment.
The ACF pointed to a study undertaken by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and leading climate economist Nicholas Stern which found that for every $1 million investment, the clean energy sector created 7.5 new jobs, compared to just 2.65 jobs in the fossil fuel sector.
There has been growing frustration within the environmental and clean energy sectors at the pace at which the Morrison government has appeared to back the fossil fuel industry, particularly the oil and gas sectors, as its preferred target for economic support.
Groups like the Smart Energy Council, the Clean Energy Council and environmental groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation, have called for the government to direct economic stimulus support into the clean energy sector.
A recent Stimulus Summit run by the Smart Energy Council, in partnership with RenewEconomy, heard of the huge range of options for how a green stimulus could be developed in Australia.
“The World Bank, the IMF, the International Energy Agency, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and many others have also called for governments’ coronavirus recovery packages to simultaneously tackle climate change,” O’Shanassy added.
“We can take this moment to choose a different path that builds our economy, helps fix the climate crisis and creates a fairer, healthier and more resilient Australia for all, including our children and grandchildren.”
Much of the Morrison government’s economic response in the energy sector has been focused on supporting the fossil fuel sector, including the relaxation of standards for production of liquid fuels, the weakening of regulations on the gas sector and delays to crucial electricity market reforms that will slow the introduction of new clean energy projects.
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