The Guardian Australia
Australia must stop wasting time and shift to renewable energy to spark job creation, Albanese says
Anthony Albanese will tell a clean technology and jobs summit that Australia cannot afford “further drift and timewasting” when it comes to the transition to renewable energy because there is “huge potential” to create hundreds of thousands of secure, well-paid jobs.
The Labor leader’s domestic pitch on Tuesday comes in the lead-up to an international climate action summit later this week organised by the US president, Joe Biden.
Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, to a virtual event starting on 22 April. The president is expected to use the summit to announce what his administration has termed “an ambitious 2030 emissions target”.
After a weekend visit to Shanghai by Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, the US and China have also issued a joint statement pledging cooperation on climate action – although with diplomatic relations between the two countries still fraught, it is unclear whether Beijing will attend the event or make new policy pledges. Morrison’s language on achieving net zero by mid-century has warmed considerably since Biden won the US election, and a number of federal Liberals favour the Coalition making a concrete commitment. But it is unclear whether Australia will flag any new policy commitments at this week’s event, or use the summit as an opportunity to defend Australia’s record.
On Monday evening, while stopping short of a concrete commitment, Morrison again signalled the government’s interest in pursuing the transition to net zero “as quickly as possible and preferably by 2050” through commercialisation of low emissions technology.
Morrison said he had “increasing confidence” the target could be achieved.
The prime minister acknowledged the shift he was heralding would require Australia to “change our energy mix on the way to net zero”. Morison suggested this would be achieved by the “animal spirits” of the market and the “pioneering entrepreneurialism” of industrialists and farmers.
While framing the transition as inevitable, Morrison declared the Coalition would not “sacrifice our traditional industries” in regional areas by “seeking to tax our way to lower emissions and a net zero economy”. He noted Australia would not “achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of the inner cities”.
Albanese’s speech on Tuesday follows a separate pitch in Brisbane last week by the shadow climate change minister, Chris Bowen, who warned that almost a million Australians would lose their jobs if runaway climate change decimated the environment and the economy – with Queensland bearing the brunt of any failure to act.
In preparation for the next federal election, Labor has been concentrating its advocacy about the transition to low emissions in Queensland and in the regional seats that swung heavily to the Coalition in the 2019 election, in part because the government portrayed Labor’s climate change policies as a catalyst for job destruction.
Albanese will tell attendees at Tuesday’s summit in Canberra that the transition to low-emissions technology means secure, well-paid jobs for “today’s Australians and for future generations”.
According to a copy of the speech circulated by his office, the Labor leader will declare it is time to end a domestic clean-energy debate “bogged down by negative partisan politics”.
“For more than 20 years, the Liberals and Nationals have rejected scientific advice and chosen to portray the rise of clean energy as a threat to jobs and exports,” Albanese will say. “At their worst, they have deliberately misled Australians, pretending we can ignore change, even as it happens right before our eyes.”
Albanese will say the looming transition will mean jobs for scientists and engineers, and miners of lithium, copper and nickel.
But he will argue that the transition will also spark job creation right across the economy, including in local manufacturing, because renewables are the cheapest form of energy.
“Low-cost renewable electricity looms as the key to unlocking jobs growth for decades to come.”
Albanese will note that energy grids powered by renewables can be more decentralised, “opening up more potential in places that have historically been hamstrung by a lack of access to the cheapest energy”.
The Labor leader will say Australia will continue to export carbon-intensive commodities such as coal “based on global demand” and that the opposition “respects” traditional industries for the jobs they create.
“But renewables represent the future, and we ignore this fact at our national peril.”
Albanese will say the national broadband network provides a useful case study demonstrating what happens “when governments oppose change for ideological reasons”.
Labor proposed the NBN in 2009 as a rollout of fibre to the premises, “but in 2013 the incoming Liberal government downgraded the project with a new model using 19th-century copper wire technology”.
Albanese will say that despite the downgrade, the cost of the project blew out, and ultimately the Coalition reversed course and returned to a fibre-to-the-premises model, with the “technological misadventure” now forecast to cost $57bn.
“We must not repeat this mistake when it comes to renewable energy,” the Labor leader will say. “We need to be at the front of the pack, not well behind the pace.
“We have the technology. We have the best natural resources in the world. We have an opportunity to act now to secure a better future for ourselves and our children. We must seize the day.”