Big business has thrown its weight behind a 50% emissions reduction by 2030 to avoid a “costly and damaging” game of climate catch-up.
The Business Council of Australia believes a cut of between 46% and 50% on 2005 levels within the decade is pragmatic, ambitious and will drive investment.
“The purpose of our work is to move forward, not engage in an endless debate about issues the nation and the world has moved past,” BCA president Tim Reed said.
The council said modelling showed accelerating emissions cuts would leave Australians better off by an average of $5,000 per person each year by 2050.
Australia in 2015 committed to an emissions reduction of between 26% and 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.
But the Morrison government has resisted agreeing to a 2050 net-zero target despite immense international pressure ahead of COP26 climate talks starting in Glasgow on 31 October.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, remains in talks with the Nationals, who have long fought against stronger emissions cuts.
Some in the party have demanded agriculture and mining be exempt from a net-zero target.
The BCA thinks the regions have the most to gain, and has laid out a roadmap to avoid Australia “playing costly and damaging catch-up” on inevitable change.
It wants the government to commit to a net-zero 2050 target and increase shorter-term goals to provide investment certainty and incentives.
This would allow for the development of new technologies to address abatement in sectors where it’s harder to cut emissions.
The BCA’s call is a significant shift from the position it held in 2018, when it attacked Labor’s proposal of a 45% emissions reduction target for 2030 as “economy wrecking”.
It now says the electricity industry is expected do the heavy lifting on a stronger 2030 target, with the BCA also flagging significant opportunities for renewable investment.
“The momentum for moving towards net zero by 2050 is unstoppable. The pace and scale of change is accelerating globally,” its report says.
“Australia is at a crossroads: we can either embrace decarbonisation and seize a competitive advantage in of developing new technologies and export industries; or be left behind and pay the price.”
Under the BCA’s proposal, 10-year carbon budgets would be brought in and reviewed five years by a beefed up Climate Change Authority.
It would include a taskforce to manage the energy transition for the nation’s regions facilitating co-operation between government and businesses.