Imagining a Low Carbon Economy

Our economy is interlinked with our energy consumption – intimately. The Oil Crisis of the 70’s triggered a scramble of activity in Energy Departments around the world. Suddenly energy security could not be taken for granted and energy efficiency was an asset. The reliance of developed economies on oil became crystal clear.

Australia has had a more comfortable run than many economies. We had an abundance of fossil fuels and for many years ours was one of the cheapest places for energy intensive industries to locate. So to a large extent our energy resources have shaped our economic structure. We now have an economic transformation underway, and renewable energy resources that we must exploit if we are to successfully transition to a low carbon economy.

Low Carbon Jobs Forum AdvertI’m honoured to be joining our expert panel on Monday night to discuss New Jobs in a Transforming Economy. As part of signing up, we asked our audience of over 300 people to tell us what they most want to understand about this dual energy and economic transformation. I’ve published a sorted list of questions here and you can see many common themes are emerging.

The insights are fascinating.

Many of you are already eager to see a post-capitalist world emerge. What does the world look like when workers are no longer needed? How do we provide basic incomes to everyone? Can we make sure community, culture, arts etc. are more strongly valued? Could this be the trigger for us to finally develop sustainable ways of operating?

Justice and equity is front of mind. Will there be a shift in wealth and power? How do we manage unemployment? Can the new economy be fairer than our current industrial model? can we please make sure we retain the dignity of work and don’t leave people behind in this transition? (a theme shared with the Renewables for All project)

Some of you have been scanning the emerging technologies: automation, artificial intelligence, 3D printing. Some, emerging social models: co-working, microbusinesses, co-operatives, grassroots approaches, home and lifestyle based work.

Many of you jumped straight to the types of questions that we hope our economic development policy makers are asking: What will be our competitive advantage? What economies should we emulate? Where will the investment come from? Who are our competitors? Are we inviting enough or are we dreaming about what SA can become when we appear to be in such a sorry state?

And the concerns about skills hit us at a personal level. Where will I find a job? What should I study? What skills do my children need to gain in order to prosper in this brave new world? Are we doing enough to develop the right skills in our community and to help people transition from jobs in the industrial economy?

And finally, you have a clear focus on the question of How? How do we get this transition right? Are Governments doing enough? What should we get started on now? We started this process with a discussion paper and proposed a roadmap to help build a common understanding of the implications of the transition path we are already on. We are hoping to use this forum and further conversations at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas in October to build the next steps.

There are also many questions about renewable energy technologies, the proposed nuclear waste dump, and the numerous opportunities that you see in a future energy and economic system. These are not minor details. As I said at the beginning, our energy future will be instrumental in shaping our economic future. Discussing and imagining this future is a conversation we need to have.

A short plug for me: After many years talking about the technology and working on the financial viability of energy changes, I am about to spend three months investigating the social/governance dimension of our energy transition. You can read more about my Churchill Fellowship here and I hope to blog regularly while I am away. First stop the World Energy Innovation Forum at the Tesla factory in Silicon Valley – woohooo!



About Heather

I am an energy and climate change specialist with a background in industrial energy efficiency and climate change policy.
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One Response to Imagining a Low Carbon Economy

  1. Pingback: Australian Community Energy | changing weather by Heather Smith

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