CANBERRA, AAP – Australia must accept coal’s days are numbered and help the industry’s workers and their communities transition to new jobs by 2030.
That’s the view of Selwin Hart, the UN’s assistant secretary-general and special adviser on climate action, who will address the ANU’s Crawford Leadership Forum this week.
Mr Hart will tell the online forum that phasing out coal is a prerequisite of limiting global warming to 1.5C.
Global investors were abandoning coal, but the shift was not happening fast enough, he says.
“We fully understand the role that coal and other fossil fuels have played in Australia’s economy, even if mining accounts for a small fraction – around two per cent – of overall jobs,” Mr Hart said.
“But it’s essential to have a broader, more honest and rational conversation about what is in Australia’s interests, because the bottom line is clear.
“If the world does not rapidly phase out coal, climate change will wreak havoc right across the Australian economy: from agriculture to tourism, and right across the services sector.
“Similarly, construction, housing and the property sector, in a country where the vast majority live on or near a coastline.”
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has previously called for OECD countries to phase out coal by 2030, with other countries achieving the shutdown by 2040.
But he has emphasised it is essential no worker and no community is left behind in the transition.
Mr Hart said the region was looking to Australia for leadership, especially on the target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said it is the government’s “preference” to get to net zero by mid-century, but has not formally committed to it.
“National governments responsible for 73 per cent of global emissions have now committed to net zero by mid-century, and we urge Australia to join them as a matter of urgency,” Mr Hart said.
But it needed to be backed by an ambitious 2030 target and a clear plan to achieve it.
“This is why all countries need to submit genuinely enhanced nationally determined contributions – or NDCs – before COP26 (climate summit) in Glasgow in November this year.
“Collectively these commitments must cut carbon pollution by 45 per cent this decade if we are to keep our 1.5C goal within reach.
“We urge Australia to seize this moment.”
The senior UN official said an ambitious climate agenda had the potential to boost Australia’s economy, driving innovation and productivity growth.
“If G20 countries – including Australia – choose business-as-usual, climate change will soon send Australia’s high living standards up in flames.”