Australia possesses a significant amount of energy resources and should leverage this to lead the global shift towards renewable energy, according to Greg Jericho.
The Australian government often claims that we have the potential to be a leading producer of renewable energy, but fails to acknowledge our current status as an energy powerhouse that fails to utilize this power for positive impact.
This weekend marked the 10th year since the Abbott government introduced a draft bill to abolish the carbon tax. It was also the 10th anniversary of a report stating that the IPCC warned of the potential for “thousands of Australians” to be killed by global warming.
Last month, the UN announced that it was the hottest September on record. This follows a pattern of record-breaking temperatures, with August, July, and June also being the hottest in their respective months.
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Between 1900 and 1969, a new monthly record was set approximately every two years. However, since 2010, this occurrence has decreased to an average of once every four months. This observation may lead one to hope that those who deny climate change and claim no warming has occurred since 1998 were correct.
In the past 25 years starting from 1998, the global temperature has not only risen but has also increased at a faster rate.
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The temperature has been consistently increasing at a linear rate from 1973 to 1998, with a projected 2 degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial levels by 2078. However, based on the trend of the past 15 years, we are now expected to reach this level in 2051.
Approximately 70% of the current population in Australia is projected to still be alive at that time, and half of the current population will still be in the workforce.
It is time to begin decreasing emissions, one might assume – however, it is unfortunate that Australia is not taking action in this regard.
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We are far from reaching the goal of net zero emissions, and even further from achieving the target of reducing emissions by 43% below 2005 levels.
However, the primary objective of the targets is not to achieve them, but rather to provide the government with a compromise between what the scientific evidence recommends and what certain members of the Liberal party deem sufficient.
They can claim they have achieved a balanced viewpoint, referred to as the “pragmatic delivery focused approach” by climate change and energy minister Chris Bowen in a recent Australian Politics podcast with Katharine Murphy.
During the podcast, Bowen made every effort to divert the conversation away from decreasing the use of fossil fuels and addressing important matters like refraining from opening new coal or gas mines. Instead, he focused on promoting Australia as a leading producer of renewable energy.
This primarily pertains to our aspiration of achieving high levels of “green” hydrogen production in the future, as well as our abundance of minerals necessary for renewable technology, such as lithium. If the global goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is achieved, Australia’s possession of 50% of the world’s lithium extraction will be highly advantageous.
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However, Australia does not need to anticipate becoming a renewable energy powerhouse, as we are already an energy powerhouse.
It is possible for us to generate approximately 50% of the global supply of lithium. However, we currently export 52% of the world’s metallurgical coal, making us the largest exporter alongside Qatar and the US. Additionally, we are the second largest exporter of thermal coal after Indonesia.
This is an immense level of strength.
We squander it.
We do not utilize our role as a major energy producer to steer the global community towards clean energy sources, despite being aware that we possess the potential to also become a leader in renewable energy.
Instead, for many years, Australian governments have been subservient to the mining industry, attending Minerals Council of Australia events out of apprehension over potentially offending companies that are contributing to climate change.
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Next, we address our trading allies such as Japan and Korea and assure them that we will continue to provide them with LNG regardless of the circumstances. We mention the potential of selling them hydrogen in the future, but no specific timeline has been proposed for when this may happen.
Our stance is that it is imperative to currently market LNG to them, in order to gain their trust in purchasing our green hydrogen at a later unspecified time. This “plan”, as Murphy aptly pointed out to the climate change minister, essentially means “We must sell gas to ultimately end the reliance on gas.”
Although exporting green hydrogen is not yet a current business, the International Energy Agency recognized that there has been a recent increase in efforts to promote its use as a low-emission alternative, but it is still not enough to meet climate goals.
It is not surprising that there is no significant transition to hydrogen in Australia, as the government is assuring export partners such as Japan and Korea that they will continue to receive all the LNG they require for as long as they desire.
Why would Australia be considered committed to the transition when the Minister of Resources, Madeleine King, stated at the AFR’s Energy and Climate summit that there are currently 18 carbon capture and storage projects in progress in Australia with the goal of collectively sequestering 20 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2035?
This year, Australia released 530 million tonnes of CO2, which does not demonstrate a strong commitment to decreasing emissions.
This is due to the fact that decreasing emissions requires a decrease in the use of coal and gas, and taking immediate action to limit the use of these non-renewable energy sources globally.
This week, Adrian Blundell-Wignall, a previous economist at the OECD, proposed that Australia should exercise its authority to impose an export tax on our metallurgical coal. This would allow us to significantly reduce global demand and decrease the use of coal, thereby reducing emissions.
It would be behaving as an energy powerhouse that is committed to rapidly becoming a renewable energy powerhouse.
However, this is not the case. Instead, we have received reports that the government is contemplating adding metallurgical coal to the “critical minerals list”, which would classify it as “essential”.
We are not primarily a dominant force in energy, but rather a petitioner.