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The costs of phasing out coal and gas are so high that governments must redirect coal royalties and create a sovereign wealth fund from the critical minerals boom to pay for it, a leading centrist think tank says, equating the shift away from a fossil fuel-dominated economy to a second industrial revolution for Australia.

The Grattan Institute warned “Australia’s social fabric could tear” under Australia’s commitment to reach net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 if the jobs and economic losses in regional coal mining communities are not replaced with targeted industry policy to spur growth in new industries.

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“The decline of coal and gas for Australia is a big deal because we earn so much of our export revenue from those two sources – the best part of $100 billion dollars [earned each year] between the two of them,” Grattan’s energy and climate change director Tony Wood said.

Grattan’s report The next industrial revolution, released on Sunday, said state governments should redirect a portion of coal royalties they earn to growing new industries that will feature in a net zero world – such as building wind and solar farms, and mining and processing critical minerals like copper, lithium and nickel and hydrogen fuel.

The price tag for transforming the electricity grid alone will be astronomical. Buried in the energy market operator’s 30-year road map for the grid, released this week, is an estimate that total private and public investment needed in wind, solar and battery infrastructure, as well as the transmission network, will be more than $300 billion by 2050.

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