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Aussies back stronger climate motion: Lowy

Australians overwhelmingly support taxpayer-funded investment in renewable energy and bigger cuts to carbon emissions to combat climate change, a poll shows.

Some 90 per cent support federal subsidies for renewable energy technology and more than three quarters (77 per cent) support more ambitious cuts to emissions this decade, according to Lowy Institute research released on Wednesday.

Since taking power in May, the Labor government has strengthened Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target and adopted the coalition’s net zero by 2050 pledge.

Strategist Cheryl Durrant, former director of preparedness and mobilisation at the Department of Defence, said more than half of those polled continue to view climate change as a “critical threat”.

It’s critical that Australia catches up with other countries who are “way ahead” on decarbonisation, she said.

Australians remain split over the question of nuclear power, which has been banned in Australia since 1998.

Just over half (52 per cent) support removing the prohibition, a five-point increase from 2021, and 59 per cent support increasing the use of gas for Australia’s energy generation.

Economist John Quiggin said with current technology, nuclear power cannot compete with wind and solar with battery storage.

“Even if costs can be reduced using small reactor technology, expected around 2030, there is no serious possibility of deploying nuclear power in Australia before the 2040s,” Professor Quiggan said.

Climate Council research head Simon Bradshaw said building large-scale wind and solar projects is the cheapest way of producing electricity, even when paired with storage.

“It is also low risk, renewable and non-polluting,” he said.

Just under two-thirds (64 per cent) would support an emissions trading scheme or carbon tax, unchanged from a year ago.

Labor wants to host international climate talks to showcase Australia’s new climate and energy transition stance, which three-quarters (75 per cent) of those polled would support.

Under its updated pledge, Australia aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, which would be a 15 percentage point increase on the coalition’s target.

Australians also recognise that Pacific neighbours are on the frontline of climate change and need help.

“An overwhelming majority of those polled showed support for disaster relief for the Pacific, and three-quarters want to see aid for climate change action in that part of the world,” Ms Durrant said.

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