Ross Garnaut is probably the most well-known economist in Australia. The publicity of his most recent book Superpower: Australia’s low-carbon opportunity (Latrobe Uni Press, 2019)* has been widespread across the media. As a solution or partial solution to the problems of climate change most of these ideas have been around for quite some time and is obvious to all excepting those prisoner to the fossil fuel industry (our politicians) and those persuaded by its propaganda.
Last year I delivered to the local U3A a long power point lecture on Gippsland as a renewable energy superpower. Some of the points in it had already been taken up by the State Labour government such as establishing electric vehicle manufacturing in the Latrobe Valley. This proposal is ideally suited to the ‘just transition’ providing employment where it is most needed. However the pollies still have no grasp of the urgency of the warming problem and nearly halfway through the government’s term, nothing much has happened.
Battery manufacture, floating solar and pumped hydro are valley opportunities that have as far as I am aware been ignored. And the Delburn wind farm development has been delayed by a few recalcitrants yet to grasp the climate emergency. Likewise our state politicians are yet to spruik the amazing opportunities of the Star of the South offshore wind farm.
Garnaut lists all these things and has a number of other opportunities suitable to our region including the opportunities for carbon farming in a chapter he calls ‘Earthing Carbon’. It is often forgotten that after reaching carbon neutrality we then have to begin carbon drawdown. Garnaut also has hopes for hydrogen produced from renewable energy rather than brown coal and carbon capture and storage (CCS) – both touted as solutions in Gippsland. As many have noted these new, untested, technologies such as CCS are not needed as the transition can be made economically with what we have now.
The main aim of the book is to free up ‘climate policy’ in our parliaments so this just transition can happen as seamlessly as possible. Rather than attacking the naysayers Garnaut is saying this is where the jobs are, and where the future lies, definitely not in the old technologies. In his concluding chapter he highlighted “special advantages at first of the old transmission nodes of coal generation” including the Latrobe Valley. “Old industrial towns have legacies of infrastructure and industrial culture that have value for the new industrial activity.”
Now is the time for our legislators at all levels to take note of the momentous problem of global warming and put the positive, and readily available, solutions in place. Rapidly.
*copy in the East Gippsland Shire Library