Australia can afford to manage the risks of climate change but strong action is needed quickly, an academic says as a new global report urging the country to boost its investment in renewable energy is released.
Unless Australia quadruples its use of low carbon energy by 2050 agriculture, coastal areas and their tourism industries and trade will be jeopardised, Australian National University’s Dr Frank Jotzo said.
His comments come as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls for greater effort by all countries regardless of current output in a new report released in Germany on Sunday.
“Australia is one of the developed countries most at risk from climate change impacts,” Dr Jotzo told AAP.
And while encouraging other countries to help in the fight against climate change might lead to a drop in coal prices, it’s not all bad news for the economy.
“Australia has very significant opportunities in low carbon or zero carbon energies,” Dr Jotzo said.
We used to ride on the sheep’s back, he said, but the export of uranium for nuclear power could prove to be the golden fleece of the next century.
“Australia is one of the few countries in the enviable situation not just to have fossil fuels in abundance but also to have zero carbon energy source in abundance,” he said.
“There is every opportunity for Australia to be an energy super power under a strong global climate change mitigation scenario.”
The IPCC report, worked on by more than 800 experts, focuses on the underlying technical, economic and institutional requirements of mitigating climate change and recommends the world greatly increase the use of low-carbon energy sources by 2050.
One of the lead authors, professor David Stern from the ANU, told AAP that Australia had to cut its emissions.
“In countries like Australia emissions are very high so the assumption is we have to (make the) cut,” he said.
While Australia has to do its bit, so too must developing nations which are showing growth in emissions levels, he added.
Sunday’s report focuses on the underlying technical, economic and institutional requirements of mitigating climate change and recommends the world triple the use of low-carbon energy sources by 2050.
In response to the report Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the federal government must retain or increase the target to source 20 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020.
“The government needs to give up the protection racket for Australia’s big polluters and start protecting communities,” she said.
The Climate Council – the former Climate Commission – said solar is the answer as Australia should shift away from coal-fired power.