Climate change an 'opportunity' for transition: Josh Frydenberg

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Intergenerational report this week. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Intergenerational report this week. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Climate change and energy transition were back in the latest Intergenerational Report released on Monday, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg admitting the impacts would affect the economy and future budgets.

"The physical and transitional effects of climate change, the impacts of mitigation efforts and the benefits of early adaptation measures will all affect the economy and the budget over time," he said at an Committee for Economic Development of Australia event.

Some exporters in particular will need to adjust to falling demand due to the transition to lower carbon emissions globally, he said.

But other sectors would find new opportunities in the disruption.

"The effects will depend on domestic and global actions, as well as the pace and extent of climate change."

The report dances around the Australian government's ambivalence on committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but notes that many other countries are doing so and declares that Australia has made significant contributions to the objective.

Australian households' strong take up of solar panels is the highest in the world, and the nation has more solar and wind generation capacity per person than any country outside Europe.

But the government is sticking by it's goal of "preferably" getting to net zero by 2050, unable to convince its Nationals coalition partner to agree to the target.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg sees opportunities as sectors transition with emissions reduction. Picture: Twitter

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg sees opportunities as sectors transition with emissions reduction. Picture: Twitter

The report warns that scientific and climate institutions have concluded that Australia's land temperature has warmed on average by about 1.4 degrees since records began.

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Both mitigation and adaptation will be required, the report states, with mitigation of projected warming largely dependent on the timeliness of global efforts.

Australia's contribution is not just the reducing its own emissions, but also exporting low emissions technology and mitigations in the region. This will also contribute to rising prosperity, the report states.

Adaptation to the impacts of climate change will be a shared responsibility across government, community and businesses, it states.

"It will require adapting to current and future impacts and an expected increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and extreme temperatures," the report states.

Treasury notes that planning for those climate and disaster impacts will help improve economic resilience.

The agriculture, resources and financial sectors would also face a transition cost, the Treasurer noted.

"To get there, we will use technology that enables and transforms industries, not taxes that penalises them and the jobs and livelihoods they support," Mr Frydenberg said.

In the agriculture sector, the report says adaption efforts, such as better understanding and managing the physical impacts of climate change through crop selection and water efficiency, have reduced but not eliminated the impact of climate change over the past 20 years.

Australia's resources sector will see both positive and negative effects of the global effort to reduce emissions. Key trading partners such as Japan and South Korea have committed to net zero by 2050, while China aims for 2060.

These three countries account for 87 per cent of Australia's gas export value, 74 per cent of thermal coal export value and 55 per cent of coal used for steel.

In total 129 countries have made the net zero commitment.

But the global transition will fuel demand for clean energy and associated critical minerals that Australia can export.

The Treasurer said those were opportunities for Australian businesses.

"Australia is playing its part on climate change, having met our 2020 commitments and being on track to meet and beat our 2030 target."

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Labor's Treasury spokesperson Jim Chalmers said the government had failed to grasp the urgency of the once in a generation moment to deliver leadership.

"His Intergenerational Report lacks any modelling of the impact and opportunities stemming from climate change over the next 40 years, despite every State and Territory, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the National Farmers Federation and some of Australia's biggest employers embracing net-zero by 2050."

Science & Technology Australia chief executive Misha Schubert said the report's forecasts made an urgent case for STEM investment.

"A slowing economy, a major productivity challenge, a dropping birth rate, and a long-term Covid hangover sharpen the imperative for clever investments now to put Australia on a path to become a global science and technology superpower."

The key to future prosperity will be the nation's ability to be at the forefront of the big advances, she said, including science, engineered solutions and the emerging technologies of AI and quantum.

This story Climate warnings an 'opportunity' for transitioning sectors: Treasurer first appeared on The Canberra Times.