Queensland is rich in energy resources of the past and future: the historically important thermal coal and gas, as well as the more recent surge in solar and wind energy, which now dominate global energy investment. As the world increasingly shifts away from fossil fuels to a renewable energy future, Queensland can position itself as a leader in the transition to a modern, clean renewable powered economy.

Queensland is also on the frontline of climate change impacts. Climate change, largely driven by the burning of thermal coal, oil and gas, is worsening extreme weather events that threaten Queensland’s unique natural assets, as well as its climate-sensitive major industries such as tourism and agriculture. Tourism employed about 138,000 people in Queensland in 2016-17 (Tourism and Events Queensland 2018) and agriculture employed an average of 69,600 people in the year to May 2019 (ABS 2019a). Together, tourism and agriculture employ over 207,000 Queenslanders, eight times the number of Queenslanders employed in coal mining (Queensland Treasury 2018; ABS 2019a).

Queenslanders want action on climate change to protect livelihoods and the iconic natural assets of Queensland. About 24% of Queenslanders rated the environment as their top issue in the recent federal election, similar to the nation-wide average of 29% (ABC 2019a).

Queensland is already leading Australia in many aspects of renewable energy. However, more needs to be done to unlock the enormous renewable potential and associated growth in jobs and economic opportunities.

This report first outlines the key climate change risks to Queensland. The report then shows how – given its plentiful renewable energy resources – Queensland stands to benefit more than other states and territories from leading the transition to renewable energy. Finally, the report highlights the significant influence of Queensland’s decisions on global efforts to tackle climate change.

Key findings:

  • Queensland is highly exposed to extreme weather, and has borne 60% of the total economic costs of extreme weather in Australia in the decade from 2007 to 2016.
  • Climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events that a affect Queenslanders – drought, bushfires, heatwaves, floods and cyclones. These events are taking a heavy toll on the health of Queenslanders, and on the state’s many natural assets.
  • Currently 65% of Queensland is drought declared, with significant impacts on the state’s rural sector. Parts of the state’s west and south have been drought-affected for more than six years.
  • More than 80% of damages resulting from rising sea levels and storm surges in Australia are projected to occur in Queensland. The most vulnerable area, the Gold Coast, accounts for almost a quarter of projected national damages from sea-level rise alone.
  • Queensland’s economy is reliant on climate-sensitive industries such as tourism and agriculture, and therefore needs strong local, national and international climate change action to reduce its vulnerability.
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