Costs would be moderated in Australia because the average age of coal-fired power plants was about 40 years, and would soon have to be replaced anyway. Solar and wind-generated electricity was also already cheaper than new coal, he said.
Fossil-fuel use in other sectors, such as transport and agriculture, could also be phased out and replaced by synthetic fuels, particularly hydrogen. Australia’s abundant sun and wind resources gave the nation an advantage only matched by north Africa and the Middle East as a renewable powerhouse, Dr Teske said.
Australia would benefit from the transition from the export of hydrogen-based or other synthetic fuels, and from shipments of cobalt and silver used for storage and solar panels, respectively.
While biofuels offered potential to supplement renewables, the sector would be constrained by the need to maintain farm land to feed growing populations. Reforestation would also be needed to provide a carbon sink to help reduce carbon-dioxide levels, he added.
âCiting a growing body of research, we show that using land restoration efforts to meet negative emissions requirements, along with a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050, gives the world a good chance of staying below the 1.5-degree target,”Â Malte Meinshausen, founding director of the Climate and Energy College at the University of Melbourne, said.
The research, understood to cost in the range of $1 million, was the first in Australia by the foundation set up by prominent actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio.
Given the scant carbon budget left to keep warming from reaching dangerous levels, “every year of delay is a huge problem”, Dr Teske said.