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How Australia could lead the world in reducing global emissions by 9 per cent: Garnaut

Australia could cut anywhere between six and nine per cent of global emissions by doubling down on green export industries, all while powering another round of prosperity to rival the mining boom.

Feb 14, 2024, updated Feb 14, 2024
Ross Garnaut believes Australia could help reduce global emissions by almost 10 per cent. (Photo: Australian Renewable Energy Agency).

Ross Garnaut believes Australia could help reduce global emissions by almost 10 per cent. (Photo: Australian Renewable Energy Agency).

That’s the message leading economist Ross Garnaut and former consumer watchdog chair Rod Sims will deliver in a national address on Wednesday as leaders of the Superpower Institute.

Professor Sims said Australia was making progress on its own decarbonisation but not doing enough to till the soil for export industries such as green iron and green aluminium.

“Of course, focus on decarbonising Australia, but that seems to be 100 per cent of the focus,” he told AAP.

“Whereas, in fact, we have a real opportunity to reduce global emissions by anywhere between six and nine per cent.”

Key to the the Superpower Institute’s 15-step policy plan, set to be spelled out in a National Press Club address, is a “carbon solution levy”.

The levy would impose a price equivalent to the European scheme on every tonne of carbon extracted from below the ground or imported into Australia – introducing a “green premium” on zero-carbon goods and generating the funds for technology innovation and other parts of the superpower plan.

Prof Sims acknowledged any kind of carbon pricing mechanism would be challenging given the political scarring on the issue.

That’s why the institute is giving itself until 2030 to get there, while advocating for an earlier start as a way to fund much-needed cost of living relief and budget repair.

“This is the start of the game, not the end,” Prof Sims said.

Other parts of the superpower plan, such as a grants program for green export projects in their early stages, would be much easier to get off the ground.

Prof Sims said Australia had the best solar, wind and biomass combined resources in the world.

But unlike Australia’s existing metal and energy exports that are easily transported to other countries to be turned into valuable products, its harder to move renewable energy around.

“So the economics have completely flipped, it makes economic sense that these things are made in Australia,” he said.

Were Australia to process its iron metal using green technology, it could save the world three per cent of its emissions, the institute estimates.

“This is roughly three times the gain the world gets from Australia decarbonising.”

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