I have researched the impacts of climate change on companies and our economy for over a decade now, and I am a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II that looks into impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change.
Setting aside the rigour and tenets of research, I’m really aggrieved that the science hasn’t cut through. That in some quarters, climate change is seen as something trumped up by, well, people like Trump.
The IPCC report released this week issues dire warnings about how climate change will impact us.
The extreme weather events of heatwaves, wildfires and flooding around the world are playing out now and we can expect more of the same.
Urgent action is required now in terms of funding feasible and practical alternatives, and the rapid transition to renewable energy is among those.
In Australia, as we head into another bushfire season, the oil and gas industry lobbyists called on politicians on all sides to back regulations expanding the investment remit of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
They say all technology, including hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS), should be on the table. Possibly.
They see this as common-sense measures and support for practical steps to reduce emissions and help the environment.
The thing is, it won’t. Not without an energy transition plan and policies to clean, green technology.
While overseas countries are capitalising on the rapid global clean tech transition, the Australian government has energy and environmental policy on the backburner, as global climate change accelerates with devastating consequences.
Is this another missed opportunity for Australia?
Largely hidden from the public eye, the government is trying to push ahead with funding for fossil-fuel projects, including gas and carbon capture and storage technologies, and has even attempted to transform the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) into a funder for gas-fired power plants.
Australia can and should be a global leader in clean technology solutions – but what is missing is a clear national energy policy, clear climate targets that translate into national climate policy, and clear targets around the country’s. roadmap towards meeting future emissions targets.
The existing target is to reduce carbon emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels until 2030, which is well behind the targets by other nations (the US has committed to a 50% reduction over the same time frame).
The climate envoy of the US, John Kerry, has called on Australia ahead of the next round of climate talks to reduce emissions by 75% below 2005 levels until 2030, and to reach net zero emissions by 2035.
Australia is a long way off to achieving a fraction of these targets.
Like the vaccine rollout, Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes that Australia will get there “as soon as possible”.
Exact milestones remain unclear, crucial investments are delayed.
Research conducted by the Centre for Corporate Sustainability and Environmental Finance (CCSEF) at Macquarie Business School shows that the international community has moved beyond discussions of emission reduction targets to a significant deployment of renewables, substantial overhauls of the energy and transportation sectors, as well as a move towards a hydrogen economy.
Clear carbon and energy policies and country-level public R&D expenditure have been significant drivers for this overseas cleantech development, however, it is now also market forces that are driving the clean-energy momentum going forward.
This momentum is visible in the increase of cleantech patent activity, documented in the Macquarie Business School study: “How markets will drive the transition to a low carbon economy.”
Data show that both high levels and high growth rates of cleantech patents are visible in many countries, including China and Japan, but also the US, meaning that the clean tech transition is well underway even in countries with limited support for climate policies in past years, such as the US.
Development of these patents is now fuelled by overseas green recovery plans.
The total global wealth creation by 2050 through the development of clean technology patents in areas such as bio-fuels, fuel cells, hydro energy, wind energy, solar energy, and geothermal energy is significant (A$13.69 trillion to A$20.87 trillion).
Without a clear roadmap as to how Australia will transition to clean technology and meet emission reduction targets, there will be a substantial disadvantage for the Australian economy in developing new technologies and remain competitive in the long run.
I implore our legislators to take scientific reports, such as the IPCC, seriously. We owe it to the next generation.
Professor Martina Linnenluecke heads the Centre for Corporate Sustainability and Environmental Finance at the Macquarie Business School at Macquarie University. She is a contributing author to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Working Group II (AFR 6 WGII).