Sustainable Business

Unusual coalition urges Australia to step up investment in clean energy exports

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David Brockwell walks between wind turbines during a routine inspection at the Infigen Energy wind farm located on the hills surrounding Lake George, 50 km north of the Australian capital city of Canberra May 13, 2013. Picture taken May 13, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Australia's big business lobby group, unions and two green groups joined on Wednesday to urge the government to invest in clean energy exports, just as politicians wrangle over new emissions targets ahead of UN climate talks this month.

Pressure is growing on the government both domestically and internationally to set ambitious climate targets, but the conservative government has yet to come up with a plan amid concern about keeping voters happy in rural regions that are dependent on coal, gas and farming. read more

Australia could create 395,000 new jobs and generate A$89 billion ($65 billion) in new trade by 2040 by investing in renewable hydrogen and ammonia, green steel and aluminium, critical minerals, battery manufacturing, education and training and engineering and consulting services, a report commissioned by the unusual coalition of groups said.

"The global shift towards net zero emissions presents huge opportunities to create new, secure jobs for workers across Australia, but we need to act decisively to secure these industries," Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michele O'Neil said in a statement.

The ACTU, the Business Council of Australia, which represents the country's biggest companies, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and WWF-Australia jointly commissioned Accenture to do a report on the export opportunities.

They said the government should set an interim target of 6 gigawatts of hydrogen and three green metals plants by 2027, going beyond the government's 10-year plan to promote development of clean energy technologies.

"Unlocking clean exports at this scale would require 6 times the current national electricity output and a commitment to commercialise new industries such as renewable hydrogen and green steel," the report said.

Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest's Fortescue Metals Group aims to produce 15 million tonnes a year of green hydrogen by 2030, among several other projects being studied by companies like Origin Energy (ORG.AX), Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX), and InterContinental Energy. None of them have reached final investment decisions yet.

The report also called for A$10 billion co-investment in new industries and a A$5 billion fund for workers and regions "to manage the disruption to regional economies and workers dependent on carbon-intensive industries".

($1 = 1.3622 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Kim Coghill

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