Ian Learmonth is CEO of Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which invests in innovative clean energy projects on behalf of the Australian government in line with the country’s goal of achieving net zero by 2050. CEFC is one of the largest green banks in the world. Over the last year it has invested a record AUD $1.2 billion (USD $760 million) in 14 large-scale renewable projects.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
Momentum is building to set targets at COP28 to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030, which the International Energy Association (IEA) says is critical to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Australia is lucky to have abundant clean energy resources and enough space to develop the wind and solar farms to harness them. As one of the lead investors in Australia’s clean energy sector, the CEFC knows it is possible to ramp up generation from a standing start. It requires the coordinated efforts of governments, financiers, developers, and local communities to meet these new targets. Failure is not an option.
What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?
The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a global game changer for clean energy investment. The way the world responds will determine whether it is a catalyst for more investment globally, or merely acts as a magnet to attract capital to the U.S. Ideally, every nation would have its own IRA, drawing on its respective competitive advantages to build local investment opportunities. Australia’s $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program—providing revenue support for large-scale green hydrogen projects to kick start the extraordinary potential of Australia’s green hydrogen market—is one such effort.
What is a climate technology that isn’t getting the attention or funding it deserves?
Air travel is expected to double by 2050, which means rising emissions in a sector that is already difficult to decarbonize. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) made from renewable sources like crops, farm waste, animal fats, and vegetable oils, has the potential to reduce emissions, create alternative revenue streams for farmers and divert waste from landfill while developing a competitive, clean energy industry. Ambitious emissions targets will help build demand, with more investment and technological advances needed to produce enough SAF to replace conventional fossil fuels.
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