The Climate Institute has just released an updated GE Low-Carbon Competitiveness Index as part of its Global Climate Leadership Review 2013. While the report found that Australia has staged a slight reversal in its previously declining readiness for the low-carbon economy, Asia is clearly taking centre stage.

“Australia’s fragile improvement in low carbon competitiveness has occurred against a backdrop of delicate but important progress in UN climate negotiations, cuts in clean energy costs, growth in global carbon pricing and other policies and continuing strong investment in clean energy”, said John Connor, CEO, The Climate Institute.

“It’s clear that the centre of clean energy gravity is shifting to Asia, China in particular. China has improved its ability to compete in the global low-carbon economy significantly, boosted by high-tech exports and just under half of global public equity investment in clean energy.”

Australia dropped to 17th place due to rapid improvement in Indonesia, but it has slightly improved its low-carbon competitiveness. This is partly because it has not been affected as badly by the global financial crisis. Other factors include increased investment in infrastructure (and education, to a lesser extent); a slightly more energy-efficient transport sector; and what will likely be just a temporary drop in the value of natural resources as a proportion of national income.

The key findings from Index are that:

• France is the most low carbon competitive, followed by three Asian countries: Japan, China and South Korea.

• China has leapt ahead by four points, thanks to its clean energy investments.

• The US experienced the most dramatic decline, dropping 3 points to number 11. This is largely due to lower public equity investment in clean energy, decreasing high-tech exports and increasing reliance on shipments by air.

OECD research released in January showed that the Australian carbon price – $23 per tonne of CO2-equivalent – is one of the lowest, ranking just 30th out of the 34 member countries.

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