A long-awaited net zero by 2050 plan will draw down costs of new technologies rather than phasing out traditional energy sources, the government revealed on Tuesday.
The new plan will rely on existing low-emissions technology doing the heavy lifting to reach the target and is betting that emerging technologies will do the rest of the work.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said the country was on track to exceed its Paris commitments of slashing emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels, instead likely achieving a 35% reduction by 2030.
The prime minister claims the government’s “Plan to Deliver Net Zero the Australian Way” walks a middle ground between the “threats” and “opportunities” of transitioning to clean energy, after the issue proved vexed for previous leaders and governments.
“There’s no blank cheques here. It will not shut down our coal or gas production or exports, it will not impact households business, or the broader economy with new costs or taxes imposed by the initiatives that we are undertaking,” Morrison said.
“It will not cost jobs, not in farming, mining or gas … it will not increase energy bills. It is not a revolution but a careful evolution to take advantage of changes in our markets, and it’s not a set-and-forget plan.”
The government expects an existing $20 billion investment in low emissions technology, from the technology investment road map announced last year, will unlock at least $80 billion of total private and public investment.
The plan includes a requirement for the Productivity Commission to monitor the socio-economic impact of the transition in regional Australia every five years.
Energy, industry and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor said the plan would reduce the cost of low emissions technologies, rather than increase costs on traditional energy sources.
“We have already achieved 20%,” Taylor said, pointing out where the cuts would occur.
“The technology investment roadmap … will drive down emissions by 40%. Global technology trends, this is technologies where we are not shaping them, but we will use them, will drive down emissions by another 15%,” Taylor said.
“Offsets provide the opportunity to further reduce emissions by 10% to 20%, and then we are relying on additional technology breakthroughs, which we can see now, that are likely to provide that final 15%.”
The government is also estimating 62,000 jobs will be created in regional mining and heavy industry jobs.
Taylor highlighted the plan was for net zero, and not “absolute zero”, with offsets playing an important role.
“The recognition for instance that Australia has 90 million hectares of productive agricultural land, which is a very significant carbon sink and can be a more significant carbon sink,” Taylor said.
After weeks of wrangling with the Nationals, Morrison said the plan was “100% supported by our government”.
“I am so pleased that our Coalition has proved strong in dealing with one of the most difficult issues,” he said.