Wind power plants in China

While China and the US have ramped up renewables capacity, Australia has turned from leader to laggard in the space, losing billions in investment opportunities in the process, a new Climate Council report says.

The report, Lagging Behind: Australia and the global response to climate change, found that China had installed the most renewable energy capacity worldwide last year, with 2.6 million employed in the field, closely followed by the US. Australia, however, seemed to be going backwards.

“Investment that could be coming to Australia is instead going overseas to countries that are moving to a renewables energy future,” report co-author Professor Tim Flannery said. “Unfortunately the lack of federal government commitment to renewable energy is hurting the industry. In the last year investment in Australian renewable energy projects dropped 70 per cent.”

Chief executive of Investor Group on Climate Change Nathan Fabian said the world was “moving into a phase of competition between nations for low carbon investment capital”.

“Countries that have transparent, long-term policy frameworks that reflect the abatement task we face will attract low carbon investment,” Mr Fabian said. “Those that don’t, won’t.”

The news comes as a separate report from The Climate Institute recommends Australia increases its carbon emissions reduction target to 40 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025, with the economy totally decarbonised between 2040 and 2050.

“By just focusing on 2020 emission and renewable energy goals, the recent political debate has ignored growing scientific, investment, and international realities,” Climate Institute deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson said. “This short-term focus is simply a high risk approach to the significant challenges of decarbonising our economy and helping avoid dangerous impacts for Australia.

“The question for the government is whether it seriously accepts the internationally agreed goal of avoiding warming of 2ºC above pre-industrial levels and that these warming levels threaten Australia’s national interest, prosperity and security.”