Business leader Sir Richard Branson says there’s no political appetite for a carbon tax in Australia, but has proposed another way to get the nation to dump fossil fuels sooner.
The Virgin Group founder and climate action campaigner says Australia could require businesses to invest in emerging green technologies, based on how carbon intensive their activities are.
He says young entrepreneurs working on technologies that will help fight climate change will get access to a vast pool of money to research and develop their ideas and rush them to market.
And businesses would get their money back down the track, when those technologies begin to turn profits.
“It is difficult to persuade governments in Australia to levy a carbon tax,” Sir Richard has told a climate-focused summit in Sydney, attended by hundreds of Australian tech entrepreneurs.
“But maybe something like a clean energy dividend, where every company puts aside a certain amount of money … to invest in clean energy, depending on how much carbon they are emitting.
“They’d have the chance of getting that money back through their investments and if every company was asked to do that, enormous amounts of money would then be invested in Australia trying to create a clean energy revolution.”
Sir Richard called on Australian politicians to summon the courage to dump coal, and show what can be achieved when a green economic transition is properly supported.
“You just have to ask the politicians whether they’re going to be brave enough just to do it, and it obviously has to be done,” he told the Impact X Summit on Wednesday.
“Coal is the number one problem the world has.”
He said good governance in Australia meant creating new jobs for coal industry workers, something the UK and other countries had managed to achieve.
“I think they’d have a much better life than they currently have going down a coal mine.”
Australian tech billionaire and climate adaptation funder Mike Cannon-Brookes told the summit it’s time for Australia to “stop romanticising the past”, while also acknowledging the prosperity fossil fuels had created.
“Now that we have other alternatives, we have to take stronger action to move away from it,” he said.
“We need to divorce mining from fossil fuels. It’s often wrapped up in this sense of ‘oh you are anti-mining’.
“And it’s like ‘woah, hang on a second, mining is necessary’. Australia can profit from iron ore, steel, copper, zinc, rare earth metals, silver. We have everything the world needs to build all of these renewable technologies.
“So our mining industry will do fantastically well if we transition even further away from fossil fuels. Separating those two is really important.”