We’re back in Canberra this week and once again, climate change is dominating the political debate. That’s a shame. I’m tired of writing about it and I fear readers are sick of reading about it. Notwithstanding, here are 10 important facts.
Fact 1: Our climate is changing in threatening ways and human activity is contributing. Therefore, the people around the world should change their behaviour in proportion of their contributions.
Fact 2: Australia accounts for a little more than 1 precent of global emissions and we shouldn’t be forced to do more than our share and in doing so unnecessarily and stupidly destroying local jobs.
Fact 3: Reducing emissions need not hurt. Action does not and should not be something that harms our existing industries.
Fact 4: Our coal generators have limited physical and economic lives. Liddell will run out of puff in 2 years’ time. The country’s youngest generator will run until 2050 as long as of course, governments embrace a sensible approach and avoid policy overreach which forces it to close earlier. Either way, we won’t have any coal-fired generators after 2050, it’s one of the reasons Net Zero Emissions (NZE) by 2050 is achievable without doing economic harm.
Fact 5: Reducing emissions can and will create other opportunities. In the Hunter we are preparing for the eventual withdrawal of our coal-fired generators by making sure that the new forms of electricity generation are built here. That includes pumped-hydro, thermal solar, photo voltaic solar, hydrogen, battery storage and gas generation.
Fact 6: Committing to Net Zero Emissions will not hurt our coal export industry. Our thermal and metallurgical coal will be in demand at good prices in the markets of Asia regardless of our domestic commitment for decades to come. Of course, most of our coal is exported.
Fact 7: Agriculture need not be disadvantaged by a NZE policy. Indeed, a well-designed scheme will benefit farming as the National Farming Federation has argued.
Fact 8: Net Zero Emissions is a different thing than zero emissions. NZE simply means putting no more carbon into the atmosphere than we are taking out. There are many things we can do to improve carbon absorption including the expansion of the forest plantation estate and improving soil health.
Fact 9: The right path to NZE will include government investment in the things needed to help our regional economies maximise the opportunism. For example, incentivise the roll-out of electric vehicle charging stations in the bush. Like investing in the research needed to bring down the cost of producing hydrogen more quickly. Of course, most if not all our future supplies of hydrogen will be produced in our regions, including the Hunter region.
Fact 10: We have done well over the past thirty years. Indeed, the emission intensity of our economy has fallen 66 percent since 1990.
I will continue to strongly support and fight for the interests of the industries which are so important to our regional economy. That in part means backing sensible and proportionate climate change policies that reduce emissions without destroying jobs. NZE is not a policy, it’s an ambition. The real debate is not the target, but how we achieve it.