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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Chief Scientist Alan Finkel on climate, energy and emissions

9 Dec 2020

This month Alan Finkel ends his term as Australia’s Chief Scientist.

An entrepreneur, engineer, neuroscientist, and educator in his former life, Finkel describes the role he’s held since 2016 as consisting of two activities.

There’s “reviewing” – briefing government on all matters scientific, including energy and climate change. And then there’s “making things up” – developing programs to support the communication of science, technology, innovation, and research across the community.

Writing for The Conversation, Finkel expresses confidence Australia will achieve the “dramatic reduction in emissions” that is “necessary”.

However the road has not been easy, with many political setbacks.

“I was certainly somewhat personally disappointed, and disappointed for the country, that the Clean Energy Target wasn’t adopted,” Finkel tells the podcast.

“On the other hand, I took a lot of comfort from the fact that the other 49 out of 50 recommendations [in his report] were accepted and adopted and most of them have been implemented.”

“Those recommendations – a lot of them have been part of the reason that we’ve been able to introduce solar and wind electricity at extraordinary rates in the last three years.”

The debate currently is whether Australia will sign up for zero net emissions by 2050. While Finkel says “that’s a question for politicians, not for me”, he adds that “we’re taking the right measures already consistent with a drive towards zero or low emissions”.

These measures, he says, involve cheaper batteries, solar, wind, pumped hydro, and gas as a “backstop”, as we transition out of coal fire electricity.

Asked if a new coal-fired power station project could ever be started, Finkel said that to comply with carbon capture and storage, the cost of electricity from the plant would be “five or six times higher” than electricity produced by solar and wind.

“I would never predict anything…but I can say with some degree of confidence that that economics would be challenging”. His message was clear.

Additional audio

A List of Ways to Die, Lee Rosevere, from Free Music Archive.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by The Conversation. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By The Conversation

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