COVID-19 is having devastating effects on our economy.
Rebuilding it is going to require significant investment from governments and the private sector alike. So where will the new work and new jobs come from? What do we need as a society now that will give us the infrastructure, skills and platforms we need to drive a prosperous future?
Climate change doesn’t stop progressing, even when a colossal health crisis hits.
As our aging coal and gas power plants approach retirement, the need to replace them grows urgent. We can now do it with lower-cost renewable energy: from the sun, the wind, from the heat in the earth, and from water and tides. Cleaner air and water is never a bad thing, and avoiding devastating climate change impacts is an added bonus.
The clean recovery could deliver us what we need to restore our economy and mitigate some of the most serious consequences of climate change.
Robust propositions including the Clean Recovery and Decarbonisation Futures have been prepared by experts so Australia can build back better post-COVID-19. With investment in, and deployment of, renewable energy and other technologies, we can deliver durable economic benefits for Australians and stand a chance at achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 (or sooner).
What is the Clean Recovery?
The Clean Energy Council’s Clean Recovery advocates that post-pandemic economic rebuilding efforts focus on the clean energy sector.
Proposed actions would:
- Boost our economy by sustaining 28,000 energy jobs and creating an additional 50,000.
- Support rural and regional parts of Australia, which are generally more severely affected by the impacts of climate change and where the majority of renewable energy jobs would be.
- Empower more households and businesses to take control of their energy, with more rooftop solar and batteries bringing down energy costs.
- Create a smarter, more resilient energy system, setting us up for the future and leading us to become a global clean energy superpower.
- Have positive effects on long-term air quality, health and environmental sustainability.
Australia’s carbon emissions are mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels (79% of our emissions come from coal, gas and oil). Transitioning energy generation to renewables is essential, as it enables other industry sectors to decarbonise. Once our electricity production is clean, so is every sector that it powers. That’s trains, trams, manufacturing, office buildings, and, if we move to electric vehicles, even transport systems.
What is ‘Decarbonisation Futures’?
ClimateWorks’ Decarbonisation Futures complements the Clean Recovery plan. It takes a broader focus and insists on accelerating the deployment of, and investment in, zero-emission solutions, so we stand a better chance at achieving net-zero emissions before 2050. This can, all the while, benefit the Australian economy.
These solutions lie in accelerating deployment across five major sectors:
Electricity: 100% renewable energy, energy storage (e.g. batteries) and demand management.
Buildings: Energy efficiency measures and electrification (i.e. reducing use of gas for heating, hot water and cooking).
Transport: Electric and fuel-cell vehicles for light road transport. Investing in biofuels, synfuels, electrification, ammonia or hydrogen for heavy vehicles.
Industry: Energy efficiency, circular economies, electrification, bioenergy, bio-feedstocks, industrial carbon capture and storage. Investing in material substitution, high grade heat electrification, solar thermal, and hydrogen.
Agriculture and land: Sustainable agriculture practices, plant-based substitutes, fertiliser management, and carbon forestry. Investing in lab food and enteric fermentation treatments that reduce methane from livestock.
Government, businesses and individuals all have an important part to play in accelerating the development, deployment and uptake of these technologies.
For government, it means setting targets that promote the adoption of these technologies, investing or stimulating investment, making different procurement choices, investing in supporting infrastructure, and better informing stakeholders and the public on solutions.
For businesses, it means setting better targets, investing in these technologies, advocating for better governmental policies, and creating new business models to accelerate uptake.
For people, it means advocating to government and business, paying a bit more while these solutions get off the ground, making community investments in low-carbon solutions, installing energy-efficiency upgrades and solar technology at home, and changing the way we consume and move (transport).
We need to get on board with an emissions-free future, now.
The European Union, South Korea and Canada are already supporting green recovery measures. But most of Australia’s stimulus money announced so far would support the fossil fuel economy, with a recovery built on gas.
Australia is uniquely positioned to capitalise on solutions that will create a prosperous, emissions-free future. But we need to act now to have enough time for our emissions to drop. Our current trajectory leads to over 2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050, expected to have disastrous impacts on human, economic and environmental health.
Economic recovery, renewable energy and low-carbon technology investment are completely compatible. With everyone on-board, not only will our economy recover, but so will our environment.