Australia Behind in Carbon Competitiveness Media Release

Sep 14, 2009 - 9:30am

For the first time, G20 countries, meeting next week in Pittsburgh, have been assessed on how competitive they will be in a low carbon global economy and on their rates of improvement in a report for the independent Climate Institute and European think tank E3G.

It reveals that, while there are grounds for optimism, Australia and most other nations are short of the carbon productivity and competitiveness improvements necessary to stabilise global greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 parts per million (ppm) or lower. Both major Australian political parties agree this global target is in our national interest.

"There's no place for further handouts or delay in this Australian and global productivity and competitiveness challenge, said  Climate Institute CEO John Connor. "Many of our trading partners are moving faster and we risk missing opportunities for investment, jobs and and profits in clean energy emerging industries."

The G20 Low Carbon Competitiveness Report, prepared by leading London based economics consultancy, Vivid Economics, details three indices: the low carbon competitiveness index (how carbon competitive countries currently are), the low carbon productivity index (how quickly their carbon productivity is improving) and the low carbon gap index (whether countries are improving quickly enough to meet their share of the commitments needed to stabilise global greenhouse gas concentrations at the IPCC 450 ppm scenario.

In his preface to the report, Lord Nicholas Stern writes, "a global economic recovery will present an ideal opportunity for countries to shift towards low carbon growth. Countries who don't seize this opportunity will undermine their future competitiveness and prosperity."

Report findings include:

  • Only Mexico and Argentina are currently improving their carbon productivity rate at a rate which, if continued, will meet their share of a 450 ppm global target by 2020.
  • South Africa and Germany are close to being on target and China would also be close if it could return to the carbon productivity gains of the 1990s. Australia is 16th with only Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia requiring bigger turnarounds to reach this target.
  • The top five positions in the low carbon competitiveness index are held by France, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Germany. Australia is ranked 15th, the lowest position of any industrialised nation.
  • While its carbon productivity is improving, Australia's low ranking stems from its carbon intensive exports, low use of clean energy and high consumption of transport fuels.
"This report underscores the urgency of preventing further handouts for big polluters, for economy wide reforms with a stronger Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and for more decisive energy efficiency measures to improve Australia's carbon productivity."

"It also highlights the importance that world leaders gathering next week for UN and G20 meetings to increase financial and investment incentives for clean technologies in developed, but particularly developing, countries," said Connor. "This is vital to building an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen, which could be the engine for accelerating low carbon growth."

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