We seem to hear a lot in the media from conservative politicians and industry groups that moving to a low carbon economy will cause significant job losses in Australia. But the idea of an industry that lasts forever is a complete fallacy – all industries have to adapt to a rapidly changing globalised world. And as the world is moving to a low carbon economy, protecting current heavy polluters is the equivalent of protecting the typewriter industry at the dawn of the personal computer.
Cutting Australian greenhouse gas emissions isn’t just a feel good exercise. Although greenhouse intensive industries will need to undergo structural changes, there is far more employment and wealth creation in moving to a clean, low carbon economy for Australia. A global clean, green industrial revolution is taking place this century and it’s the nations who move first at rapidly cutting carbon emissions that will prosper in this new greenhouse age.
Unless Australia values carbon in its economy in a meaningful way, the new low carbon fuels, cars, materials, energy technologies, building designs and markets will once again be produced offshore. Meanwhile our coal reserves will stay in the ground as the world shifts to low carbon forms of energy.
Small innovative countries like Australia have an immense opportunity in creating new clean industries. A meaningful carbon price and upscaling in clean R&D will spur hundreds of new green start-ups all over Australia to service the technological needs of a low carbon economy. Those new Australian products and technologies will be craved in a world short on oil and high on carbon and would position Australia as a leading clean-tech hub for a growing Asia. Australia must be ahead of the world in cutting carbon emissions if we want the hundreds of green start-up firms and jobs to come our way.
The age-old conservative proposition of ‘jobs versus the environment’ is not only a dead idea, but a dangerous one for Australia to embrace in the coming decades.