Climate expert provides roadmap for Australia’s energy future

August 23, 2017

Australia could become the centre of the global renewable energy transformation.

Australia could become the centre of the global renewable energy transformation, according to an international climate expert who spoke at Murdoch University recently.

Murdoch alumnus Dr Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics, who has been working at the centre of the international climate change debate for the past 30 years, presented this year’s Keith Roby Memorial Lecture in Community Science.

Dr Hare discussed the implications and opportunities of the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21) for Australia.

He provided a roadmap to enabling Australia to move quickly towards a clean energy system while diverting investment to the innovative production of metals and minerals for the carbon-free industry.

“With the Paris Agreement, governments committed to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2oC above pre-industrial levels,” Dr Hare says.

“This means global C02 emissions need to peak by 2020 and reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“The emission reduction is essential to reduce extreme heat waves, drought and damage to agricultural and water systems and may also give our tropical coral reef systems a fighting chance at survival.”

Dr Hare says the sector that needs to move first and fastest is the electric power sector, which essentially needs to decarbonise over the next two decades.

He also believes Australia must move quickly to electrify cars and build the required infrastructure.

But most importantly, Dr Hare says it is vital for Australia to get its domestic policy settings right.

“The focus of the Federal Government on coal is an expensive and time-wasting distraction but Australia has a major opportunity to turn this global transformation to its advantage,” Dr Hare says.

“Australia is sitting on a wealth of the minerals the world needs to build renewable energy technology, such as neodymium and high quality iron and steel for wind turbines, and lithium for the batteries essential for the storage of solar energy.

“Yet under present plans we will be exporting energy commodities such as thermal and coking coal, and liquefied natural gas, which all have a bleak future in a carbon constrained world.   We are already seeing the softening of thermal coal demand globally.

“At the same time, Australia has massive exportable renewable energy resources and relatively few constraints on their deployment compared with many other countries, and, a public that is extremely interested in developing and installing renewable energy.

“Australia also has a highly skilled workforce with strong scientific, engineering and logistical capabilities, which is reflected in our innovative capacity and often world leading developments on the ground.

“We could make a major economic opportunity by pivoting Australia’s international diplomacy away from supporting more fossil fuel development towards a strategy of developing an export market for new renewable energy carriers and low carbon, hi-tech minerals."

The Keith Roby Memorial Lecture in Community Science was established in memory of Murdoch University foundation member Keith Roby, who believed science could make a major contribution towards resolving contemporary issues such as the dilemmas surrounding the environment, energy, resources and genetic engineering.

This lecture was delivered on Wednesday 23 August at the Kim E Beazley Lecture Theatre on Murdoch University’s Perth campus.

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Media contact: Pepita Smyth
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