Australia needs a ‘sensible pathway’ to net zero, minister says

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Australia needs a pathway for our resources industry and agriculture to move towards net zero emissions, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has told a CEDA forum sponsored by Nous Group just weeks before the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

Mr Taylor made the case at an online discussion on the topic “Pathways to Net Zero” hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia on 12 October. The online discussion was facilitated by Nous Principal and experienced energy policy expert Richard Bolt.

The minister said a net zero position did not seek to achieve zero emissions, but net zero emissions.

“For a country like Australia, this is the difference between destroying some of our greatest economic strengths, our traditional industries that have given us enormous prosperity over a long period of time, agriculture, heavy industry, resources,” he said.

“We don’t want to see those industries being badly damaged, and they don’t need to be. They do need to adapt – there’s no question about that – but a sensible net zero goal with a sensible net zero pathway creates a pathway for our resources industry, our heavy industry and our agriculture.”

Mr Taylor said the federal government wanted to see more international investment in regional communities, particularly in hydrogen. Australia could also import clean energy, such as through the energy supply chains Australia has with Japan.

Also speaking at the forum was Steven Miles, the Queensland Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.

Mr Miles explained that Queensland has a long history of converting its natural advantages – such as sunshine – to economic advantage. Partnerships with Fortescue and Rio Tinto demonstrate the Queensland Government’s commitment to working toward net zero and delivering green energy to the state, he said.

The minister said the state is well-placed to decarbonise itself while it meets its export ambitions. ”We’ve moved very quickly from leading in rooftop solar to leading in large-scale solar to now having a lot of large-scale wind coming online,” Mr Miles said. “Clearly we need more storage, and the next frontier of that will come with hydrogen.”

Anna Skarbeck, CEO of ClimateWorks Australia, told the forum state and federal funding for hydrogen hubs and renewable energy zones should be pooled into a national program with a place-based approach, with one for each sector. This would involve “setting goals around harnessing renewable-energy-powered export-oriented jobs growth and decarbonising existing industries to de-risk and futureproof them,” she said.

Ms Skarbeck argued that upfront funding – ideally increased tenfold – would be needed to combine these goals. She said Australia must normalise the net zero target, so policy, corporate targets and consumers all contribute.

Also speaking at the forum was Paul Gleeson, Aurecon’s Group Director Sustainability and Managing Director Energy, Resources and Water, who argued Australia already has the technology available today to do the biggest chunk of the work.

“The biggest pathway toward net zero for most businesses and government is electrification,” he said. He cited large-scale wind and solar power, saying Australia should focus on enabling massive scaling of existing technologies.

Nous Group is involved in many projects to accelerate the energy transition, including a Net Zero Australia partnership to analyse decarbonisation pathways, developing an offshore wind strategy, drafting a clean energy prospectus for a fossil fuel region, assessing the economic impact of a proposed transmission line to a renewable energy zone, and identifying commercialisation pathways for carbon capture and storage.

Contact us to discuss how we can work with you to help Australia meet its Australia’s emission goals.

Connect with Richard Bolt on LinkedIn.