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replant forests, and introduce China’s
first-ever environmental taxes. The 12th
Five Year Plan is also framed to create
carbon markets. A pilot program in
Jiangxi and Guandong Provinces in
industrial Southern China will pioneer
the way for a national scheme. There
are existing carbon trading exchanges in
Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin. The Chinese
are also investing heavily in new battery
types that store electric charges much
more efficiently, making them suitable for
high energy demand technologies, like
While Australian governments of all
persuasions have argued that we should
stay with selling coal to China to ensure
our future prosperity, they have ignored
that China is investing in high-tech, low-
carbon manufacturing for the future.
It’s many years away yet, but you can’t
restructure Australian industry once it’s
been fully accomplished in China – we
must start our own transitions now, as
So what are our options? Obviously,
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) cells are suited to
houses and offices, and can buy and sell
electricity to the grid according to need.
Put these on people’s roofs, instead of
investing in a new coal fired station.
Solar thermal plants can power electrical
generators, which, with storage tech-
nologies, can reassure sceptics concerned
about solar capacity to provide “baseload”
power. Wind power also has enormous
potential, though we will need to
investigate claims about their potential
Since our continent has extensive hot
granite, we have a great capacity to create
geothermal power to heat and generate
These are not experimental tech-
nologies – they already exist. Windpower
generated 158 Gigawatts around the
world in 2009, and has been climbing
30% per year. Photovoltaics are around
21 GW, climbing by over 50% per year.
The largest geothermal in the world is in
California, able to produce 750 Megawatts.
Of the 300 Gigawatts (GW) of new
electricity added 2008-2009, 140 GW
came from renewable energy. And here’s
the surprise – according to the IPCC,
developing countries host more than
50% of current global renewable energy
capacity. They are carrying the rich
What do all these numbers matter?
The IPCC tells us that taking renewables
to 80% of total production by 2050 would,
by the best of projections, represent
“a cut of around a third in greenhouse
gas emissions from business-as -usual
projections”, and these “could assist in
keeping concentrations of greenhouse
gases at 450 parts per million (ie close to
the tipping point). This could contribute
towards a goal of holding the increase
in global temperature below 2 degrees
The findings of the 120 researchers
led Ramon Pichs, a Co-Chair to say: “The
report shows that it is not the availability
of the resource, but the public policies
that will either expand or constrain
renewable energy development over the
Public policies like Australia’s national
2011 Budget that cut back on renewables
and energy efficient programs, leaving
us open-mouthed, and open-handed,
as China prepares to make its own big
change away from the best “dirty” coal
we have to offer. The best we can do? ●
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