Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

Australia’s prime minister on Wednesday launched a billion-dollar ($ 738 million) investment fund to accelerate emerging low-emission technologies, including carbon capture and storage, as he bolstered his government’s green credentials ahead of elections within months.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison expects the private sector to match at least his government’s $ 500 million ($ 369 million) contribution to the fund.

“Australia can become a world leader in creating low-emission technologies that are both affordable and scalable,” Morrison said in a statement.

The ruling Conservative coalition wants the fund to be administered by Clean Energy Finance Corp., a state-owned green bank set up to increase investment in the clean energy sector.

But that would require a change in the law, as the corporation can only invest in technologies that have proven to work in the short term, such as wind and solar. It can not invest in more experimental technologies with long-term potential such as carbon capture and storage.

The new fund will address a gap in the Australian market in which small, complex, technology-focused start-ups could be seen as “too risky to finance”, the statement said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed to turn Australia into a ‘world leader’ in green technology [FILE: David Gray/AFP]

Angus Taylor, Minister of Industry, Energy and Emission Reduction, said the law change was needed for Australia to reach its net zero emission target by 2050.

“There are a lot of people, when it comes to climate policy, who want to wipe out industries,” Taylor told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“They say we want to see resource industries disappear or agriculture affected. This is not where we start. We start with the solution: low-emission technologies that can reduce emissions, ”Taylor added.

The center-left opposition Labor Party has hinted at the possibility of supporting legislation in the Senate if the government promises new money and does not take away investments from other areas of clean energy production.

“If it’s real new money, then we’ll look at the details,” said Chris Bowen, Labor spokesman on climate change and energy.

The government’s new policy to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions comes after Morrison was widely criticized at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, for failing to set more ambitious targets for 2030.

Australia aims to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels, while other countries have tightened commitments.

With Australian elections by May, Morrison on Tuesday announced a $ 250 million ($ 185 million) plan that he hopes will lead to 30% of sales of new passenger vehicles and light commercial trucks in Australia battery electric or plug-in hybrid -electric is by 2030.

Less than 2% of new vehicles sold in Australia are electric, and the transport sector is a major reason why Australia, on a per capita basis, is one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters.

Australia is also one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquefied natural gas.

Carbon capture and storage involves collecting carbon at the source, concentrating it and then injecting it deep underground.

Richie Mercian, a former Australian government spokesman on climate change, said the new fund would “support fossil fuel technologies such as carbon capture and storage” instead of phasing out fossil fuels.

Australia is home to the world’s largest carbon capture and storage facility at Chevron’s Gorgon natural gas project on Barrow Island off its northwest coast. About 60 such facilities are operated or under construction around the world.

The Gorgon project has stored more than 5 million tons of carbon emissions since it began work in 2019.

But Chevron announced in July that it had not reached its target of storing at least 80% of the carbon produced by the facility, or about 4 million tons per year.

Peter Milne, a former oil and gas industry engineer, estimated that Chevron injected only 30% of the carbon he promised.

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