Warning sounds over cost of climate change

Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)


The economic alarm has again been sounded over climate inaction, with an environmental group warning the cost of extreme weather has more than doubled over the last 50 years.

The cost reached $35 billion for the decade after 2010, according to a new Climate Council report.

It comes as a parliamentary inquiry prepares to put an independent MP’s widely-supported climate change bill under the microscope.

The Climate Council’s report says by 2038 the cost of extreme weather events and sea level rise could cost the Australian economy $100 billion every year.

Climate Council spokesman Will Steffen says the world will continue seeing consequences from not acting on climate change sooner.

“No developed country has more to lose from climate change-fuelled extreme weather, or more to gain as the world transforms to a zero-carbon economy, than Australia does,” Professor Steffen said.

The findings have prompted the group to call on the federal government to adopt a goal of net zero emissions by 2040 at the latest.

It’s a step up from pressure for net zero by 2050. The Morrison government hasn’t put a time frame on achieving net zero emissions, instead saying it hopes to achieve the goal “as soon as possible”.

Representatives from government departments and a wide range of groups including the Property Council of Australia, National Farmers’ Federation and Australian Industry Group will appear at a hearing on Friday to examine a climate change bill.

It has been introduced to parliament by independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall, and rubber-stamps net zero emissions by 2050 while setting up a Climate Change Commission.

Submissions to the inquiry show strong support for the national framework on climate it would provide.

“Having a very clear set of government policy ‘goal posts’ would enable company directors to focus their resources and efforts more efficiently with respect to climate-related transition risks,” the Business Council of Australia said in its submission.

Unilever and Origin Energy are also supportive, reflecting the growing trend of businesses adopting their own net zero emissions targets and calling for certainty from government.

Local councils, Sydney’s Pitt Street Uniting Church and scores of individual citizens have written in support of the proposal.

Ted O’Brien, the Liberal MP chairing the inquiry into the bill, has previously said it would assess information “with dispassionate independence before drawing conclusions”.

Federal politicians are preparing for parliament to resume next week for the first sitting of the year.

Both major parties are battling internal issues on climate and energy policy, with the Nationals again urging the Liberal Party, its senior partner in government, to help fund new coal-fired power stations.

Labor is still yet to find a united voice on the future of more renewable energy sources and the transition away from fossil fuels.


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