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Australia's $333b pot of gold beyond fossil fuel 'valley of death'

Politics

Australia could reap $333 billion by 2050 from selling green energy overseas, according to a report pressing for rapid action to avoid a “valley of death” in the country’s exports.

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The federal government should set up a $100 billion green export target by 2035 for renewable hydrogen, critical minerals, and green steel and aluminium, the Beyond Zero Emissions think tank says.

It wants to see green exports become the focus of foreign affairs and trade policy, a five-year plan to establish 14 renewable energy precincts and a $20 billion lending authority set up to support large-scale investments in the energy grid.

Beyond Zero Emissions believes these moves can grow Australia’s revenue from green exports to $333 billion a year by mid-century.

It warns the $128 billion fossil fuel export industry risks becoming a “valley of death” as trading partners implement net zero goals, carbon border tariffs and other countries move to capture new export industries.

“Our choice is clear: over the next two decades Australia will lose a third of total commodity export revenue and the jobs that go with them, unless significant policy shifts are made to unlock investments in new export industries,” the report says.

It looks at three possible options for Australia’s exports including a “back of the pack” scenario with a continued focus and reliance on fossil fuel.

A “go for gold” scenario involves a strong commitment to net zero exports as well as fast tracking public and private investment in infrastructure, technology and upskilling of workers.

The middle “slow starter” option envisages Australia reaping some green export growth but missing out on $200 billion in revenue because it doesn’t move quickly enough.

Another think tank, the Blueprint Institute, proposes using federal and NSW government coal royalties to develop new industries and jobs in regional areas.

It also urged the federal government to look at ways to redeploy retired coal infrastructure and pump another $10 billion into its emissions reduction fund.

Pressure is heaping on Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he juggles how to cut emissions to net zero by mid-century while keeping the Liberals and Nationals united.

Moderate Liberals and conservative Nationals are worlds apart on climate policy.

Updated emissions targets are expected to be announced ahead of United Nations climate talks at Glasgow in a little over a month.

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