Australia could reap $880 billion from stricter climate goals, business lobby says

The government is a strong supporter of the fossil fuels industry which generates about A$76 billion in annual export revenue. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Australia can unlock A$890 billion (S$880 billion) in economic gains over the next half century if it adopts stronger climate targets, according to the country's business lobby, adding to pressure on the government to commit to a 2050 net-zero emissions goal ahead of the crucial COP26 Glasgow climate summit.

A report by the Business Council of Australia (BCA), which outlines a plan to manage the country's clean energy transition, also said a reduction in carbon pollution of up to 50 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels was achievable - well above the 26 to 28 per cent reduction Australia has committed to under the Paris Agreement.

"Setting a more ambitious interim target now will drive new investment and bring forward action in sectors such as electricity where we can deploy commercially viable technology at scale," Ms Jennifer Westacott, the BCA's chief executive, said in a statement.

The government has resisted calls to set a net-zero target and is a strong supporter of the fossil fuels industry which generates about A$76 billion in annual export revenue.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is also wary of an issue that remains politically divisive. Still, his position is becoming increasingly untenable, with the United States, Britain and United Nations all publicly calling on Australia to show more ambition ahead of the COP26 meeting which starts on Oct 31.

New discussion of Australia's policy comes as global shortages of coal and gas - at least in part the result of weak planning for the transition away from fossil fuels - have seen Europe, China and India impacted by wild price swings and power outages.

Key recommendations of the BCA report are:

- Create an independent body to oversee 10-year carbon budgets, reviewed every five years;

- Expand the remit of the government's safeguard mechanism - which requires big emitters to offset their pollution above a certain threshold - to cover more companies;

- Expand and deepen the domestic carbon offsets market;

- Promote investment in technology and innovation by boosting the size and remit of the government's green investment bodies: the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation;

- Improve policy coordination and integration, with oversight from an independent Climate Change Authority.

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