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Revealed: The $100b cost Queensland must pay just to reach net-zero

Business

Decarbonising the Queensland economy to get to net zero emissions would cost at least $100 billion, according to former CleanCo chief executive Maia Schweizer.

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That figure is before the cost of creating the export industries needed to re-establish the economy.

Schweizer said said the solutions for most of the transition were already available and the issue that was holding it back was fear over jobs.

Schweizer recently left the Government-owned CleanCo to be Andrew “Twiggy’’ Forrest’s Ms Fixit in Western Australia where he plans a radical overhaul of his iron ore projects to be net zero. The key to that was likely to be green hydrogen, but Schweizer admitted that some of the solutions have not been invented yet.

In a revealing podcast with former Labor Minister and now the head of the McKell Institute Rachel Nolan, the always upfront Schweizer said Queensland’s economy was facing a radical overhaul.

“We have to be honest with ourselves that 95 per cent of the jobs in coal mining, coal power generation, even farming, especially meat farming, those will be decided by countries other than Australia and those countries are making their commitments now.

“So, I think it’s important that we are truthful about the base case.

“I believe the rate-limiting step is not the technology, it’s fear over losing jobs and it’s fear over what the future might hold to which the only antidote is specificity and clarity and credible optimism.

“There is a long slow decline ahead of us and that is going to be painful and it could take two or three decades. Replacing an entire economy takes a bit of work. The reality is we are well positioned to succeed in a decarbonised economy.

“We are going to have to square that circle at some point. We can do that. The proof that CleanCo offered was that it showed that it can be economically beneficial.’’

She said private enterprise was driving the transition.

“Does it matter if Australia comes out and says we are committing to net zero by 2050. Frankly no it doesn’t,’’ she said.

But she said it was embarrassing not to have one. 

“It’s embarrassing because of the moral imperative to look after the world,’’ she said. 

A 2050 target also allowed leaders to show what the economy would look like and plot out how the country was going to get there.

“We are talking billions and billions of dollars. At CleanCo we did a bit of work that said it was something like $100 billion to get Queensland to net zero.

“That’s before you get to big export projects. That’s just to decarbonise our own economy.

“The challenge about the net zero debate is that whether we do it or not has taken up all the air time rather than what’s really interesting which is how are we going to get there?’’

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