Climate policy: looking to 2020
As the year draws to an end, bush fires are ravaging large parts of the South-Eastern Australia. The damages – economic, emotional and natural – will be large. The hope is that this crisis might open the door to deeper reflection about how to deal with climate change impacts, and about Australia’s role in the global emissions reduction effort.
The UN COP25 climate conference showed that international cooperation on climate change – as on so many other things – is not in the best shape. Still the Paris Agreement itself remains a beacon of the fundamental determination to deal with climate change. ANU had a delegation of academics and PhD students at COP25, engaging with the process and informing our research. My COP oped is here.
The main issue for COP26 next year will be ambition: countries will be asked to pledge a ramp-up of their efforts to reduce emissions, and to present plans towards a net zero emissions future. Some of our work next year will focus on opportunities for a long-term emissions strategy for Australia. We’ll hold a public event on this during the last week of February.
What ultimately drives the transition is the technological revolution unfolding in energy supply: renewables are now the lowest-cost way of providing new energy supply in many parts of the world. Australia has seen large scale investment in solar and wind power, as well as energy storage. The question is no longer whether we will see a sweeping shift from coal to renewables in electricity supply, but how fast, and how well managed or messy the transition will be.
At CCEP, we convened a forum on these questions this year, and in 2020 we will do new research on the regional economic and social change in Australia’s coal producing regions. We also contributed to the Future Electricity Markets Summit, convened by the Energy Security Board, ANU Energy Change Institute and IEA.
This has also been the year that the vision of Australia as a large-scale renewable energy exporter (or in Ross Garnaut’s words, Australia as a renewable energy superpower) received broad public attention. That vision has been a key theme of the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub that we lead jointly with the University of Melbourne. In October, the Hub hosted a major bilateral energy symposium involving industry, governments and researchers.
Part of that vision is the idea of a hydrogen economy. Australia now has a national hydrogen strategy that maps out steps towards possibly becoming a large scale hydrogen exporter. ANU has been engaged in that process, and 2020 will bring new research including on the economics of hydrogen, under the university’s Zero-Carbon Energy for Asia-Pacific initiative.
Finally to mention, 2020 is also the year for engagement of the expert community with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 6th Assessment Report which is in preparation. The draft report of Working Group III on mitigation will be available for expert review from mid-January and again from mid-October. If you work in this field or are otherwise an expert on the issues, consider to register and provide input. As one of the lead authors in the chapter on policy and institutions, some of these comments may land on my desk.
Best wishes for the Southern holidays season, and to those celebrating Christmas,