In their submission to the Finkel Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market, the Climate Council made it clear that a rapid transition to net zero emissions is the priority:
To protect Australians from worsening climate impacts (eg more destructive storms, intense heatwaves and worsening bushfire conditions) and in line with our Paris Agreement commitments and carbon budget constraints, Australia needs pathways to transition as rapidly as possible away from coal, oil and gas to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
But the Finkel review has little to say about our Paris Agreement commitments. Instead it focuses on ensuring a reliable electricity grid and reducing the price of electricity.
Preventing power blackouts is obviously important, and affordable power is a social justice priority. But all of that work must be done in the context of achieving net zero emissions. There’s little to be gained from cheap, reliable power if our global climate is allowed to become more unstable. More intense storms, flooding and droughts could readily undo any benefits.
It’s too easy to be lulled into climate complacency, thinking that rising seas and extreme weather events are concerns that the next generation will have to face. But the carbon budget clock is ticking; the time for action is now.
In her Quarterly Essay on Australia’s climate deadlock, Anna Krien illustrates clearly what is at stake. She argues that if Adani goes ahead with the Carmichael mine in central Queensland’s Galilee Basin, there will be a glut in the global coal market and prices will tumble. Inevitably this would slow the market-based orderly transition to renewables and put us all at greater risk.
Energy policy that doesn’t prioritise our Paris climate commitments is a recipe for disaster.
There’s a useful new reality-check tool from The Australia Institute: the National Energy Emissions Audit, to be updated by Dr Hugh Saddler every quarter. It tracks Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels.