Cost of extreme weather events has doubled to $35b since the 70s – but still no cash for climate action

The cost of extreme weather events has more than doubled to $35 billion since the 1970s – but there’s no room in the budget for renewables this year. It appears all the climate crises, devastating floods, bushfires and record-smashing highest temperatures are still not enough to prompt Australia’s federal government to act on climate.

We know by now that to avoid more dangerous climate change events, the world’s biggest polluters need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, Australia must do its part and reduce GHG pollution significantly by 2030. To achieve net-zero, Australia’s energy sector should transition first – and fast. 

However, the federal government is still investing in fossil fuels. In the latest budget, over $50 million in subsidies will go to the gas industry to support the production and transport of more gas infrastructure. This will have an impact on future budgets (notwithstanding the social cost). Health and environmental recovery spending will be Australia’s most significant financial burden if the government continues to prioritise investment in fossil fuels – the leading cause of climate change disaster. In fact, this year’s budget exceeds $6 billion in funding to flood assistance – but weather disasters will only become more severe and more frequent if Australia fails to tackle the leading cause of climate change. 

While it’s positive to note that Western Australia will receive $1.5 billion for projects in the Pilbara to support infrastructure, mineral transportation and the hydrogen industry, $200 million of this will fund blue or “dirty” hydrogen and still-unproven carbon capture and storage (CSS) technology. Continued investment on this scale shows that the government is not serious about developing green industries. A further spending of $300 million to support LNG, hydrogen capture and storage infrastructure in Darwin further demonstrates that the government is relying too heavily on CCS. We urgently need stronger policies to drive investment in emerging renewable energy technology – including genuinely green hydrogen, hydropower and tidal energy among others. 

This transition to a decarbonised economy will require a skilled workforce of vocationally trained individuals to develop, design and build renewable technologies and climate solutions. This is where the new budget does deliver. The 5-year, multi-billion dollar investment will upskill apprentices, incentivise employers to hire them and simplify a complicated system. But – we need to link those apprentices to green jobs and skills. Now is the time to provide upskilling for workers in carbon-intensive industries, enabling them to move into new sectors and contribute to Australia’s future economy.

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