Push to phase out coal in nine years
Climate and political scientists have discussed the urgency of Australia's role in addressing climate change, saying any inaction would be "a failure of immense dimension".
A panel of Melbourne University academics gathered this week to discuss the impacts of climate change and the need for Australia to be more proactive.
With technologies now available to mitigate climate change, the scientists, who have expertise in political, social, economic and earth science qualifications, called on the Australian government to do more.
Business and Economics Professor Ross Garnaut said Australia was the best placed country in the world to seize the target of zero emissions by the middle of the century.
He said to do that it would need to invest further in renewable energy.
"We have this opportunity because we have the richest renewable energy resources and the greatest opportunity to grow and store carbon in landscape," Professor Garnaut said.
"It will be a failure of immense dimension affecting our economic future as well as our climate future if we failed to make use of this opportunity."
He said the next decade would be critical in meeting what has been labelled a generational challenge, with a push for countries bound to the Paris Agreement to meet their emissions targets.
Australia has been ranked in the bottom five in the climate change performance index.
Melbourne University Professor of Social and Political Sciences Robyn Eckersley said it was a bad reflection of the country's national policy framework.
Four states have enacted flagship climate legislation, but Professor Eckersley said goalposts needed to be shifted at a national level.
"The big challenge in Australia is to phase out our coal by 2030," she said.
"Given our wealth we need to have a much more robust national framework to guide and to integrate what's happening at a sub-national level."
Melbourne University Earth Sciences research fellow Kate Dooley said Australia needed to stop burning fossil fuels.
"The focus now is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and it's really important that we don't let these sort of vague long-term targets undermine immediate action." Dr Dooley said.
"Emissions really need to go down in the next five and ten years."
Last year countries signed up to the Paris Agreement were meant to update and enhance their emissions targets, but the move was postponed because of the pandemic.
The focus globally has now shifted to the relations between the U.S. and China, whose co-operation is crucial to the success of the scheme.
Professor Eckersley said she hoped there would be more productive co-operation between those countries, who were responsible for around 40 per cent of global emissions.
"This is an absolutely critical decade to meet a civilisational challenge," Professor Eckersley said.
"So really what we need to see is all hands on deck on every conceivable front - that's the only way we can meet this challenge."
Originally published as Push to phase out coal in 9 years