CANBERRA, AAP – Industry, financiers and retirement funds are helping to resolve the climate crisis, even as Australia wins “colossal fossil” status.
By backing the creation of new things, investors can create jobs, add community benefit, offset carbon emissions and drive industrial decarbonisation, according to investment firm Quinbrook.
“This is so critical to the mobilisation of capital towards the energy and climate solution,” co-founder and managing partner David Scaysbrook told a briefing on Monday.
He said Australia is a “non-event” for institutional investors looking for returns from industrial decarbonisation.
Economist Nicki Hutley doubts Australia has done enough at the Glasgow climate summit to lower the cost of capital.
“Nobody serious is fooled by any of this,” she told AAP.
“They say they have a net zero by 2050 target, but how can you spend $10 billion a year on fossil fuel subsidies, commit $600 million to a new gas-fired power station and another $100 million to other gas projects just since the last budget?”
Climate Minister Angus Taylor said Australia had a strong track record and a process that suited an economy that specialised in energy intensive commodities.
“The great outcome of this COP, which was reflected in the communique, is a level of transparency where we will be leading the world,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.
“And when we update our projections each year they can be banked. We always deliver on them.”
Industrial decarbonisation is underway – where large industries swap out their existing energy supply arrangements in favour of renewables – as companies gear up to meet their own net zero emissions targets.
“That’s a very good long-term systemic driver for more interesting investment opportunities in renewables infrastructure,” Mr Scaysbrook said.
Australia won the “colossal fossil” award for its overall performance at the Glasgow climate summit.
The winning qualities for the award handed out by a coalition of green lobby groups were “no ambition and fossil fuel expansion”, Climate Action Network International.
“Forget your ideology, forget whether you believe in climate change, once you’re committed to net zero you have to do something about it, surely,” Ms Hutley said.
Climate litigation underway in the Northern Territory on the recently approved Beetaloo Basin project has included evidence that extracting and using the field’s gas would boost Australia’s emissions by 13 per cent.
Meanwhile oil and gas giant Woodside struck a “milestone” deal on Monday with Global Infrastructure Partners on the $16 billion Pluto LNG expansion project in Western Australia.
“The LNG supplied from the expanded Pluto facility will assist our customers to achieve their decarbonisation goals through the energy transition,” Woodside chief executive Meg O’Neill said.
Investment activist Will van de Pol from Market Forces said no amount of “greenwash” from Woodside or GIP could change the fact that new gas fields like Scarborough won’t allow the world to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
“The Scarborough-Pluto project is a carbon bomb at the scale of 15 coal power stations,” he said.
“GIP’s decision to buy into Pluto 2, and NAB’s role in arranging finance for the purchase, could act to light the fuse on that carbon bomb.”
Modelling by Deloitte Access Economics suggests more enthusiastic federal support for a low carbon economy in Australia would add $680 billion in economic growth and 250,000 new jobs by 2070.
“While I don’t fully accept the prime minister’s view that technology bails us out, it certainly is a very big component of it,” Mr Scaysbrook said.
But Australia just “faffs around” at the edges when trying to create new industries, he said.
The United States is Quinbrook’s “number one destination” for investing in the energy transition, followed by the United Kingdom for its eradication of coal and gas power generation which creates new opportunity.
“From a technology perspective, solar is the stand-out choice,” he said, with battery storage also among the “smarter strategies”.
In Glasgow, Australia rejected calls from developing economies for a dedicated “loss and damage” fund.
The new fund, left out of the final deal, would have seen countries such as Australia contribute capital for projects to offset the damage caused by a carbon-rich economy.
But a “process” to define a new global goal on finance is included in the pact and the pledge of $US100 billion annually from developed to developing countries was retained.
The climate pact also promises to “at least double finance for adaptation”, to get more climate adaptation funds flowing to developing countries.
Carbon pricing has been a casualty of Australia’s “climate wars”, but policymakers need to watch this space.
“Given that other countries are introducing things like a carbon border adjustment mechanism, we’re talking about tens of thousands of jobs that will go if this gets expanded to a range of countries and further products including coal and gas,” Ms Hutley said.
The mechanism adopted by the European Commission this year puts a carbon price on imports of some products so ambitious climate action in Europe does not simply push carbon-intensive production elsewhere.