The ACTU and Australian unions have been engaged in Australia’s climate and energy policy settings for over 3 decades. Our consistent position has been that Australia needs ambitious and coherent climate and energy policy to limit the impacts of global warming, and that we also need industry planning, support and resources to ensure that no workers or communities are left behind as we make the shift to net zero emissions.
In March 2020, the ACTU Executive, meeting in bushfire-affected southern NSW, reiterated:
“The international community, through the Paris Agreement, has committed to limiting the rise in temperatures to below 2°C above preindustrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees.
The best scientific evidence is that the world needs to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, to which Australia is and should remain a signatory.
The ACTU supports a national target of net zero emissions by 2050, and shorter term targets consistent with that trajectory, to ensure Australia meets its obligations under the Paris Agreement.
Government and corporations must ensure secure jobs and industry policy are placed at the heart of successful planning and implementation. As a nation we must ensure we deliver justice & employment opportunities for impacted workers, their families and the communities in which they live.”
Inherent in this statement is an understanding that successful efforts to cut emissions are not just about technology costs and pathways. Other essential ingredients include industry policy, training and workforce development, legislation and standards, price signals and incentives, cultural norms, and perhaps most importantly, government leadership.
Australian unions therefore approach this latest Technology Roadmap with some apprehension, given the persistent absence of a coherent framework for climate and energy policy. While the document may be a Roadmap for technology development it has no clear objective or destination and lacks the urgency that would make it consistent with the Paris Agreement objectives of limiting warming to less than 2°C or to 1.5°C.
A carbon abatement cost curve for Australia was developed as part of the Garnaut Climate Change Review as early as 2008 (see below). One of the key recommendations of this work was that a carbon price or emissions trading scheme would be required to deploy technologies that had an abatement cost greater than zero, and that regulation would be the best tool to accelerate energy efficiency and productivity measures that have a negative abatement cost.