Discussion paper

Net-zero is inevitable, by 2050 or even earlier. To get there, the Australian economy will need to undergo a tremendous structural transformation. The longer we delay, the costlier it will be. The 2030 emissions target is a critical milestone on the path to net-zero. Relying on the COVID-19 slowdown and uncoordinated state action only to fall short of our Paris target isn’t a promising start.

To begin the transformation, Australia should commit to halving emissions from coal-fired electricity this decade. Given the states are already committed to forcing renewables into the grid at record pace, we could very well reach our 2030 target without federal action. But this ad-hoc and scattershot process will be unnecessarily costly, and poses significant risks. One only needs to remember the debacles that were Port Augusta and Hazelwood—and imagine them on a national scale—to appreciate the threat we face. Failing to act risks supply shortfalls and price spikes.

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