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Fail to plan, plan to fail: green innovation

By Eliza-Jane Stringer - posted Thursday, 5 June 2014

In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report based on over 1200 future projection scenarios. It concluded that if current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced by 40% to 70% by 2050, global temperatures will rise by between 3.7 and 4.8 degrees Celsius.

So what is Australia doing to prepare for the necessary and seemingly inevitable transition to a low carbon economy?

Well, less than a week after these dire forecasts, the Palmer United party announced that it would block the Coalition's 'Direct Action Plan' in the Senate. And the budget has confirmed that the Abbott Government will continue to push for the abolition of the Carbon tax.


So apparently, we could be doing very little.

As our nation's leaders squabble over the most economical method of reducing carbon emissions, there seems to be a major disregard for the significant long-term costs associated with delayed investment in green growth.

Yes, investing in a transition to a low carbon economy will cost our nation in the short-term. Economists agree that carbon taxes, emissions trading schemes, and long-term investment in energy efficiency research will come at a cost. However these costs are not as high as initial estimates, and not nearly as high as the future costs caused by delaying the introduction of carbon reducing policies.

According to Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of a Berlin meeting of the IPCC, "We have a window of opportunity for the next decade (to act at moderate costs). I'm not saying it's costless. I'm not saying climate policy is a free lunch, but it's a lunch worthwhile to buy."

The IPCC report proposed that if introduced now, even aggressive carbon emission mitigation policies would only result in an annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth reduction from an estimated 2% to 1.94% each year up to 2100. However, the longer these policies are delayed, the less effective and more expensive to implement they will become.

So in the words of Joe Hockey, "Our future depends on what we, as a nation, do today".


So what should be done?

As a member country for over 50 years, Australia has contributed millions of tax payer dollars to theOrganisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), with significant benefit and outcomes to date. In the last four years, the OECD has released multiple reports that have summarised the most effective methods for Australia to begin making a transition to low-carbon economies. Primarily, the organisation has focused upon the need for Australia to develop its' green growth industry through fostering innovation.

Innovation will be the key to a low carbon future. Investing in the refinement and creation of clean technology today will reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of a transition to low-carbon economies. Despite this, only 2.5% of patents applied for worldwide are environmentally related. Clearly, further research and development is necessary. So who should make the investment- the public or private sector?

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About the Author

Eliza-Jane Stringer is a student at the QUT Business School and was a Global Voices Delegate to the OECD Forum in May this year.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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