By Environment reporter Sarah Clarke for AM
ABC News Online, 19th October 2009
A new report has given world leaders a deadline of 2014 to embrace a low-carbon economy or see the planet hit a "point of no return".
The economic modelling, commissioned by WWF Australia, has found that an emissions trading scheme is not enough to drive the change needed to sufficiently cut global emissions.
Instead, it says governments must rapidly put in place greater incentives for industry to make the transition.
Karl Mallon, a scientist with Climate Risk and one of the key authors of the report, says 2014 has been calculated as the point at which there is no longer enough time to develop the industries that can deliver a low carbon economy.
"The point of no return," he said.
"If we wait until past 2014 or that's what modelling shows, then simply put, it will be impossible for industries to grow to the scale that has to be achieved in the time that is available.
"So essentially, we'll miss the target and I guess then we are left with the consequences of what happens if we go about two degrees warming."
The report is a global assessment and warns "rapid change" is crucial.
It has found that currently only three out of 20 industries are moving fast enough and an emissions trading scheme or carbon price will not be enough to deliver the transformation needed to achieve the emissions cuts.
Dr Mallon says that even if Australia was to act now and start growing a low-carbon market today, these industries would still have to grow by 24 per cent a year - a goal that is hard to meet.
"There's really no time for any low-carbon industry to sit idle," he said.
"So what that means is that there a suite of industries for example in the renewable energy and carbon capture and storage areas that will have to be mobilised within the period between now and 2014.
"There are also industries in the ... energy-efficiency area. There is also a very important heavy lift that needs to happen in the agricultural sector and in the forestry sectors, largely, if you like, all aspects of a modern economy will have to start the process of transformation quite soon."
Environment groups warn this is a wake-up call for policymakers.
WWF Australia chief executive Greg Bourne says it is time the world weans itself off fossil fuels, otherwise the circumstances could be catastrophic.
"If we end up with runaway climate change, we could be heading towards a five-to-six-degree temperature rise by the end of the century," he said.
"That is devastating for the economy. It is devastating for agriculture. It is devastating for our iconic landscapes, our biodiversity. It is truly frightening.
"We can win but we have to get after it. We have to move faster and we have to create an industrial and agricultural revolution the like of which we have never seen."