Australia has an historic opportunity to create a new, export-focused manufacturing sector based on globally competitive renewable energy. The opportunity is more than building wind and solar farms – we can use wind and solar to make energy-intensive ‘green’ commodities.
If we get it right, we will resolve a climate conundrum that has stretched our political fabric for more than a decade.
Australians are very exposed to the effects of climate change – through our health, our agriculture, and our tourism – but we are also a large exporter of fossil fuels. Our climate politics reflect this. In the 2019 federal election, regions with many ‘carbon workers’ – workers in industries such as coal mining, fossil fuel power generation, and aluminium smelting – swung strongly towards the Coalition with its less ambitious climate targets. Labor’s assurances of a ‘just transition’ to a low-emissions future failed to resonate. But new clean energy industries can create tens of thousands of jobs – comparable to those in existing carbon-intensive industries. And these jobs could be in the same regions that host carbon-intensive industry today.
In this report, the authors assess the potential of three sectors that could help make Australia a green energy ‘superpower’: aviation fuel, ammonia, and steel. The analysis concludes that green steel represents the best opportunity for exports and job creation in key regions.