There is considerable interest from the world in how this is being done as it is the basis of the new economy in cities.
The politics of climate change in Australia has always been about the costs of change, how we can’t afford or can afford to pay for the changes needed to our power, transport and buildings systems.
The short-term economic benefits can also be seen very easily in our cities.
They can be factored in by carefully enabling the new economy to emerge as power stations, buildings, transport infrastructure and vehicles are replaced.
The big change is in making the decisions to enable no more coal, no more gas and no more oil-based systems to be built as replacements for aging infrastructure systems in our cities as the new energy systems are now emerging as cost-competitive.
The data supporting this can be seen by examining the macroeconomic perspective of the emerging economy.
The new non-fossil-fuel economy has been emerging globally and can be traced using how growth in gross domestic product or gross national income is now decoupling from fossil-based greenhouse gases.
This century global GNI has grown 60 per cent while fossil-based GHG has grown just 27 per cent and has declined in the past few years
Europe is doing this fastest with places like Denmark growing in GNI by 65 per cent since 2000 but coal reduced by 26 per cent and oil by 21 per cent.
Australia has begun this transition as well with economic growth since 2000 of 130 per cent far outstripping both coal (-6 per cent) and oil (+25 per cent).
The USA has similar GDP growth at 99 per cent since 2000 but already has reduced oil 3 per cent and coal 13 per cent, which is why they are unlikely to try and ‘grow great’ by going back to more coal and oil.
China’s economy has grown seven times since 2000 but its coal use and oil use just doubled and has recently begun to decline.
All these changes in use of fossil fuels have been driven by the astonishing growth worldwide in solar, wind, batteries and now electric vehicles (cars and trains), which are all contributing to economic growth, primarily in our cities.
Each of these are still increasing their growth rates and every nation and city will compete economically on how best to facilitate them.
Australia can choose to do nothing about greenhouse gas emissions as suggested by some who say ‘we have so few emissions compared to other places’ and hence we will quietly miss the opportunities being created for the future.
The new economy is emerging and we should continue to show leadership.
Peter Newman AO is Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University. He has sat on the board of Infrastructure Australia and is a Lead Author for Transport on the IPCC.