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Renewable Energy Superpower
Renewable Energy Superpower (3Mb download)
• A vision for the Australian economy to become a renewable energy economy
• Will provide an alternative to Australia’s fossil fuel exports
Australia requires a new focus for ongoing prosperity. Enormous investments have been made over the past decade in the extraction and export of emission intensive resources; particularly iron ore, coal and gas to support developing Asian economies. The related effects of fossil fuel based expansion – pollution, poor health, water intensity, volatile costs and global warming – are beginning to diminish the rewards of increasing incomes.
These trade partners, mainly China and India, along with the majority of the world are transitioning to low carbon development. Many of the investments in the extraction of greenhouse gas producing resources are underperforming and may result in significant losses. This investment is still being encouraged and supported in this country despite major financial and ecological concerns.
The world is changing focus and moving away from emission intensive development. It is past time to invest in the solutions to clean economic development so Australia can contribute positively to the global economy in the future.
Australia has the capacity for innovation and implementation through its network of world class universities, CSIRO and other research institutes as well a diverse and capable industry base. In addition to this Australia has a high level of wealth to invest in this transition.
By doing this and refocussing our diverse industries to sustainable goals, these industries, their incomes and employment while reconfigured will also be sustained. This will allow all sectors of the economy and society to continue to prosper.
This report identifes the bind that Australia is in and suggests a transition pathway for a prosperous and sustainable future.
A Fossil Economy in a changing world
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The world is shifting away from fossil energy, including countries that are key importers of Australia’s coal and gas. Australia’s economic and energy policies are yet to acknowledge this reality, linking economic prosperity with continued exports of fossil fuels. This leaves Australia at risk of stranded investments, continued write-downs of export revenue and a growing current account deficit.
The Fossil Economy report investigates the revenue expectation of Australia’s emissions-intensive exports, comparing Australian Government projections with projections from the International Energy Agency. These projections include the business-as-usual New Policies Scenario, and the climate change mitigation 450 ppm Scenario. This indicates a potential shortfall in export revenue growing to AU$100 billion annually by 2030.
To avoid becoming a fossil economy, policy makers must first acknowledge the impacts of effective global action on climate change. To ensure prosperity into the future, Australia should take advantage of the global shift to clean energy, as well as diversifying the economy.
Download the Fossil Economy report here (pdf, 1.9MB).
Download the appendix to the report here.
Only Available as a Free Download
Australia has a 50 per cent chance of systemic economic crisis, caused by ignoring the global shift to clean energy.
Australia’s industry and exports are emissions intensive. This intensity is a growing economic liability, as the international community strengthens its efforts to limit climate change.
Without changing the Australian investment focus towards cleaner energy, the country is on course for “systemic economic decline”; which means high unemployment, high debt, and deep recession.
- Projections of Australia's energy production expect our footprint to grow from 3% to 16% of the global carbon budget by 2050.
- Global economic risks cannot be controlled by domestic actions and policies. Carbon related risks can be directly reduced by domestic actions and policies.
- Penalties on emissions in excess of Australia's fair share represents a 50% chance of causing a systemic crisis.
- The time delay for investments to convert to real emission reductions requires forward planning. The earlier actions are taken, the lower the risk of crisis.
Download the Carbon Crisis report here (pdf, 450KB).
Download the Carbon Crisis technical report here.
Carbon Capture and Storage
Image: Hazelwood Power Station, LaTrobe Valley, Victoria. Monash University/Flickr, CC BY-NC
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS or “clean coal”) has been on the cards for many years.
The favoured option of dirty energy companies, the promise of CCS has been used to keep discussion of renewable energy on the backburner, offering hope to the coal industry, and delaying action on climate change.
Industry claims that CCS is the cheapest way to reduce emissions. This ignores the fact that renewable energy is already cost-competitive, in some instances cheaper, than new-build fossil fuel generators.
It also ignores the fact that CCS has been a technology on the cusp of realisation for many years.
If we’re to avert the worst of climate change, emissions must go to zero, and beyond that, to ‘negative zero’ as quickly as is possible. CCS can’t do it.
Here's why it's no solution.
- The technology is slow to develop, with unresolved limitations and uncertainties. Underground storage of CO2 is not understood well enough, and there are no cases of permanent CO2 storage.
- CCS itself consumes a large amount of energy.
- The costs of CCS are going up (while renewable energy costs fall).
- CCS can only happen at an enormous scale with high expense and would be challenging to deploy.
- Proponents are finding it difficult to obtain social license and financing, due to the damage caused by mining and climate change. Governments and industry are withdrawing support from CCS.
- CCS is unnecessary and only delays the urgent transition away from fossil fuels and on to 100% renewable energy in Australia and in all countries of the world.