Start with steel: a practical plan to support carbon workers and cut emissions

Climate change adaptation Climate change mitigation Renewable energy Steel industry Energy industries Emissions reduction Australia

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.

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