Australia Must Accelerate our Climate Action
The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a sobering wake-up call. It makes clear that climate change is already happening. The planet is already warming, by about 1.5°C since 1850. Extreme weather events are becoming more common, with the evidence of this visible around the world right now. Human activity is warming the planet at a speed that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years.
As the report makes clear, rapid and large-scale emissions reductions are needed. If the world can substantially reduce emissions in the 2020s, and get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, temperature rise can still be limited. Climate change is a global challenge, and Australia must play our part in addressing it. This will help us manage the risks climate change poses to Australia, which are significant. But it will also position us to take advantage of some of the immense opportunities that will flow from this economic transition, which Australia is well placed to capture.
In Australia, our emissions have fallen by 21 per cent since 2005. They are now at their lowest level since 1998. We have the highest solar power generation per person of any country globally, with one in four Australian homes now with rooftop solar. We are deploying renewable energy ten times faster than the global average.
But while shifting to a renewable energy grid is essential, this alone is not sufficient. We need to do more to encourage the electrification of transport, including promoting the uptake of electric vehicles. Australian sales of electric vehicles have risen at record levels in the past six months. The government is supporting consumers to make this switch by installing new electric vehicle charging stations across Australia. Just last month, we announced $25 million in funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to install more than 400 new electric vehicle charging stations across the country, including several here in the Eastern Suburbs.
We also need to look at how we make industrial processes, like the production of aluminium, steel and cement, cleaner. Australia has an opportunity to use our abundant sources of clean energy to process our iron ore and bauxite on shore, and export low-emission steel and aluminium.
With our vast endowment of solar energy, Australia has the opportunity to create the clean fuel of the future in hydrogen. Under our National Hydrogen Strategy, we are investing in hydrogen projects and international partnerships to develop a safe, commercial and clean hydrogen industry.
There is also immense potential for Australian farmers and agricultural producers to benefit from this transition through soil carbon initiatives. Capturing more carbon in soil not only improves soil health, builds resilience, and protects against drought – it can also create a valuable income stream for farmers, as they can sell these carbon ‘credits’.
We are only at the start of this journey, and there is still much to do. As the IPCC report makes clear, we need to be accelerating the speed of our transition. There are two important steps Australia can take to demonstrate we are serious, and to send the market signals to speed up this transition. One is to firmly commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, as each of our states and territories has done. The other is to increase our 2030 Paris emissions reduction target. I’ll be pushing for both in the lead up to the next big international climate change summit in Glasgow in November.