Not too late to curb climate change cost

The economic toll from climate change is tipped to worsen across Australia’s cities and regions, but market experts say there is still time to take stronger action.

Increasingly frequent and severe events will hit crucial supply chains, markets, finance and trade, reducing the availability of goods in Australia and increasing their price, an international report has warned.

“Australia has more to lose, but even more to gain than any other developed nation in the transition to a net zero economy,” Carbon Market Institute head John Connor said on Tuesday.

“We need stronger policies on industrial decarbonisation and reversing deforestation, including a declining baseline as part of the federal government’s Safeguard Mechanism.”

The mechanism requires Australia’s biggest polluters to keep their net emissions below a baseline, but critics say it should be less lenient and also supported by adequate measurement and compliance.

Links to international carbon markets could also help emissions-intensive industries, such as energy, agriculture, transport, manufacturing and industrial processes for chemicals and steel.

Mr Connor said improvements to the crediting and credibility of land based and other forms of carbon reduction and removal are also needed.

A hit to Australia’s health budget from deadly weather, more expensive food, rampant bushfires, damage to critical infrastructure, less tourism, and heat stress for livestock are among the challenges already faced.

The federal government is backing new technologies to reduce emissions and says it has led the world in carbon accounting standards through the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme.

But Australian Council of Social Service head Cassandra Goldie is concerned climate change will entrench and drive more poverty and inequality.

“People on low incomes are hit first, worst and longest and have the least resources to cope, adapt and recover,” she said..

The latest grim assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns high levels of warming could cause a global GDP decline of 10-23 per cent by the end of the century, and an even steeper cost for our largest trading partner China.

If emissions remain high, aggregate losses in the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors in Australia could be as much as $19 billion by 2030, $211 billion by 2050 and $4 trillion by 2100.

Productivity will also take a hit.

NSW Treasury modelling shows under a high emissions scenario, the state could lose up to 2.7 million working days per year by 2061.

“Take one of the most populated and fastest growing parts of the country – Western Sydney – and extreme heat days over 35C are projected to increase five-fold within the lifetimes of young people living today,” Australia Institute spokesman Richie Merzian said.

This means parts of Western Sydney could experience up to two months of extreme heat per year.

“However, state and federal government action in line with international efforts to curb rising emissions could help limit the number of extreme heat days to less than 22 days per year,” he said.

 

Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)

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