Australians are struggling to kick coal habit, says report
19/03/2012 - In a world increasingly turning away from fossil fuels, Australia is now less prepared to prosper than it was some 15 years ago, a new report says. Julian Drape
The left-leaning Climate Institute says Australia is the only G20 country to score lower on its low-carbon competitiveness index for 2012 compared with 1995.
"Australia is the worst performing advanced economy among the G20," the institute says in its the global climate leadership review, released on Monday.
"It is the only country which has become less prepared for the low-carbon economy since 1995."
France, Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Germany top the index, which measures a country's ability to prosper in the emerging global low-carbon economy.
Australia is ranked 16th of the 19 G20 nations behind Argentina, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The low-carbon competitiveness index is based on three factors: how a country's economy is currently structured towards less emissions-intensive activities, steps they've already taken to move towards a low-carbon future and investments in education and infrastructure.
Australia, a coal exporter, obviously struggles with the first.
"Australia has the lowest level of overall clean energy production, the second highest number of cars per capita and relatively high deforestation and emissions per capita from the transport sector," the review says.
By contrast France currently has the highest level of clean energy production, the least emissions-intensive exports and relatively low levels of car ownership.
But it's not all bad news.
The 2012 review, produced in partnership with GE, didn't examine Australia's plans for a carbon tax and emissions trading scheme because they haven't started yet.
"The clean energy future package will begin to change our direction," the Climate Institute review states.
"For the first time Australia will have an absolute and ongoing limit placed on the carbon pollution we release into the air."
The review states that Labor's pollution price, the carbon farming initiative, the renewable energy target and a raft of other clean-energy initiatives "can drive investment, innovation and minimise the threats and maximise the benefits to our citizens in a world limiting pollution".
In 2011 there was record spending on clean energy with global investment topping US$260 billion.
Investment in clean energy generation rose to 42 per cent of total energy investment in 2010.
The Gillard government's carbon tax starts on July 1 with a fixed $23-a-tonne pollution price. It will transition to an emissions trading scheme in mid-2015 with a floating price set by the market.