From High Commissioner Brandis
At the 2021 Conservative Party Conference, I have been very pleased to talk about the commercial transformation we are living through today — and particularly, how Australia will lead the world toward a new energy economy which not only achieves net zero but leaves us all more prosperous and secure than ever before.
Here are some of the thoughts I have shared about Australia's technology-focused approach to achieving net zero.
We all know the question before us is no longer if or why we should act urgently on climate change — it’s about how.
The recent IPCC report made the cost of inaction particularly clear.
The challenge before us, while technically complex, is rather simply articulated like this: how do we affect the greatest commercial transformation of our world since the Industrial Revolution in a way which preserves and enhances our natural world and prosperity?
In rising to this occasion, we are not without lessons from the past.
From the history we are living in right now — where a once-in-a-generation pandemic was turned around through the breakneck speed development of multiple life-saving vaccines — to the digital innovation which has changed our lives, we see time and time again that technology shapes and changes everything.
Addressing climate change is no different.
We must place our clean technology future at the end of our map and work relentlessly to get there.
For Australia’s part, our ambition is to do all we can to make low-emissions technologies globally scalable and commercially viable to rapidly accelerate global emissions reductions, enable clean growth, and make the achievement of net zero emissions by 2050 possible.
We believe that working to ensure clean technologies are practical, scalable and commercially viable enables us to transform communities and economies right around the world.
To drive technological change, we need to pull every lever at our disposal
Australia has a particularly strong record of achievement on, and world-leading experience in, the transition to a low-emissions future.
Growth in renewable energy has been so rapid that by 2030 it is forecast it will supply more than half of our electricity. And that has been driven, in large part, by Australian households and businesses investing in renewables because it makes sense for them and their needs.
Now, we need to repeat that success globally with advancements in new technologies like clean energy storage, clean hydrogen, carbon capture technologies, green steel and aluminium and soil carbon sequestration.
Slashing the green premium is the most fundamental action we can take to drive the uptake of clean technologies
We need to drive these new technologies to a point where the 'green premium' – the price difference between existing technologies and low or zero-carbon alternatives – is removed.
In Australia, we have identified where the core gaps are in slashing the green premium for technologies that, if deployed at scale, could slash around 90% of global emissions.
Thanks to the outstanding work of our Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, we’ve now also plotted out the points at which we can see our green alternatives outcompeting the higher emissions incumbents.
As Alan would say: it's now about 21st century technology to solve the challenges of centuries elapsed.
These targets are economically defined because that is how we will get them into the mass market.
We can pull three key levers to do this: government investment, enabling voluntary corporate transformation and incentivising individual action.
At the governmental level, in Australia, we are directly investing $20 billion and mobilising a further $80 billion of private investment in the decade to 2030 to bring our priority technologies to a point where they outcompete higher emissions incumbents.
As my good friend Kwasi Kwarteng has said: while we cannot tax our way to net zero, we must invest our public money wisely in our low-carbon future.
We have seen a profound shift in the way corporates view green issues – and the momentum is now in favour of ambitious action.
In Australia, we are currently setting up a new low-emissions technology deployment incentive scheme within our carbon markets where the government can co-invest with industry to transform heavy industries for a lower-emissions future.
Through a world-leading carbon certification scheme, we are enabling Australians to make greater choices about their consumption patterns to help them identify those products which are carbon neutral.
Through our forthcoming Future Fuels Strategy, we are particularly enabling greater choice on electric vehicle uptake by ensuring charging infrastructure is widely available and accessible.
As we head toward COP26, and the launch of our long-term emissions reduction strategy, this agenda has been central to Australia’s planning for our own net zero future.
Partnerships will be central to slashing the green premium, and Australian-knowhow will be a critical part.
The global application of our approach is becoming increasingly clear; particularly through the expansive role Australia’s innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers can play in addressing this profound international challenge.
From the green hydrogen innovations of my good friend Dr Andrew Forrest at Fortescue Future Industries to the remarkable vision of Australia’s SunCable team, we are already deploying the solutions and technologies needed to re-orientate our energy mix toward the new global energy economy.
I am very pleased that, in these efforts, Australia and the United Kingdom will work in tandem through our Clean Technology Partnership to address the challenges of getting clean technologies and solutions widely deployed.
Reducing carbon emissions won’t be achieved by raising barriers to trade, it will be achieved by lowering the cost, and accelerating the uptake of green technology globally, particularly in developing countries. For example, our recently signed ultra-low cost solar deployment deal with India will be crucial to unlocking significant emissions reductions across the sub-continent.
Net zero will be difficult. It will require an unprecedented mobilisation of capital, talent and grit to get there.
Achieving our net zero future is essential, but it will be difficult.
We must ensure that the road we take is practical, achievable — but perhaps most importantly — enduring.
Through an approach that offers us the chance to innovate for the creation of new industries, lifting of global living standards and the deep reduction of global emissions, we have the chance to make the next three decades some of the most momentous in human history.
Britain and Australia will get there — and we will thrive like never before.