Creating a more sustainable or 'green' state would deliver 55,000 jobs, 49,000 of which would be in regional WA, and add $16 billion to the Western Australian economy, while helping to significantly reduce WA's environmental footprint, a new Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report has found.
The report, Green Shoots: Opportunities to grow a sustainable WA economy, identified significant opportunities for WA to reduce the negative environmental impact of industries across its regions, and provided a roadmap for WA to transition to a more sustainable and resilient economic future.
Report co-author and Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Director Professor Alan Duncan said the report suggested that diversifying into more sustainable industries such as renewable power generation, lithium mining and processing would create a pathway to greater economic value and better employment opportunities for the state, particularly in regional WA.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the WA economy, which will be felt for years to come. It is essential to balance future economic growth with achievable targets to reduce the state's environmental footprint," he said.
The report identified that air pollution, land use, water security and waste management were some of the biggest challenges currently facing WA.
Compared to the rest of the state, report co-author and research fellow Dr Silvia Salazar said the environmental footprint in the South West was good particularly for air, water and land pollution, and electricity use.
Dr Salazar said the other areas that were more worrying were waste and water use.
"In terms of waste the South West is actually worse than the rest of WA, as well as water use and fossil fuel use," she said.
"The construction industry is responsible for a lot of the waste in the South West, it contributes to almost 40 per cent of the waste (relative to the gross domestic product and contribution to the economy).
"Water use is mostly explained because there are a lot of agricultural businesses in the South West, which use a lot of water. We found the same thing in the Wheatbelt.
"In the Eastern States agriculture uses a lot of water because they irrigate, however in the South West and Wheatbelt a lot of the crops are rain fed so they do not use as much water.
"The concern would be if rainfall decreases in the South West water would be an issue."
Dr Salazar said there were opportunities to diversify into other industries and crops such as food and vegetables, wholesaling, tourism, sports, retail, flower retailing and anything related to gardening or nurseries.
"One interesting prospect for the South West is the use of renewable energy," she said.
"There are some opportunities for aquaculture but only if the industry can provide safe inputs and not so much pollution."