The findings were widely criticised, including by Labor which dismissed them as “propaganda”. According to analysis by the progressive Australia Institute think tank, Dr Fisher’s findings also diverge starkly from comparable modelling.
The institute analysed 22 other reports, mostly from the past five years. They comprised work in peer-reviewed journals and reports by academics, government agencies and consultants. Authors included the Commonwealth Treasury, CSIRO, the Australian National University, the University of NSW and work commissioned by the federal Climate Change Authority.
Ten of those reports examined economy-wide effects. The institute says they all showed Australia would enjoy strong economic growth under higher emissions reduction targets, with a “small to negligible” effect on GDP growth compared to no or low-level action.
The higher targets modelled were all greater than the government’s goal of a 26 per cent reduction between 2005 and 2030, and most were close to or higher than Labor’s 45 per cent target.
The 12 other reports focused on the electricity sector. They showed that higher emission reduction targets reduced power costs or led to a “modest and manageable increase, including for 100 per cent renewables”, the institute says.
The institute’s climate and energy program director, Richie Merzian, said all 22 reports showed ambitious emissions targets came with only a small economic cost, even without considering the cost benefits of addressing climate change.
“Fisher’s claims regarding the so-called huge economy-wide impacts and electricity price hikes are a complete outlier compared to over 20 other pieces of similar research,” he said.
“The majority of Australians want the country to mobilise in a state of emergency to combat climate change with the same co-operation and commitment as a war effort. Meanwhile the Coalition government has gone to great lengths to cherry-pick contrary advice and delay serious climate action.”
Dr Fisher is a former executive director of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. He declined to comment on the analysis, but has previously said his work was not commissioned or paid for by the government.
A Coalition spokeswoman said Dr Fisher’s modelling “is the most up to date whole of economy modelling of the costs of a 45 per cent target”.
“It is clear that Bill Shorten cannot explain the costs of his excessive emissions policies,” the spokeswoman said.
Nicole Hasham is environment and energy correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.