Australia Scott Morrison to spend extra $539 million on new 'clean' energy projects. But will they reduce emissions?
Bold challenge to decarbonise Australia in 15 years laid down by Climate Council
Australia needs to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035 if it's to avoid the economic and environmental consequences, a Climate Council report says.Failure to do so could see us become increasingly economically isolated from our trading partners and at greater risk of climate-related disasters, according to the report authors.
The federal government has vowed to spend an extra $539.2 million on new "clean" energy projects, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison says will create 2500 jobs and drive down greenhouse gas emissions.
The announcement comes just days before US President Joe Biden's climate summit, where 40 leaders, including the PM, will be asked to explain what they are doing to curb climate change.
First of all, what's being promised?
In the May budget the Government will allocate:
- $275.5 million towards developing four more hydrogen production hubs in regional areas.
- $263.7 million towards carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects and hubs.
Mr Morrison has declared "commercialising low emissions technologies" is key to Australia moving towards net zero and hitting climate change targets.
‘The time’ is never right for Morrison to talk about the tough issues
From war crimes to aged care to climate change, the PM simply never has the time to discuss important issues — even when it's him who scheduled the press conference.Yet, according to Morrison, “there will be time to talk about those things. Today is not that time”.
"We cannot pretend the world is not changing," he added.
"If we do, we run the risk of stranding jobs in this country, especially in regional areas."
On that last point, his critics largely agree.
But how "clean" are the Government's announcements?
Should hydrogen production be 'clean' or 'green'?
For years, hydrogen has been referred to as a cheap, clean and abundant fuel of the future.
It has some disadvantages that have held it back. For example, it is a lot more explosive than petrol and difficult to transport.
This is partly why many in the energy industry believe electric cars will be preferred over hydrogen vehicles for everyday transport in the years to come.
However, there is potential for hydrogen to be used to run fuel-cells on large ships, trucks, and to power energy intensive industries, like mining and steel making. Billionaire.
The climate pledges of the world's top emitters
Under the Paris Agreement on climate, nearly every country will have to drastically reduce their carbon emissions, and they were supposed to submit renewed plans to do so by the end of 2020. The US has still not submitted its renewed NDC, but it is expected to do so either before or during a two-day climate summit this week. - European Union -The EU committed in 2015 to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.Member states updated this goal in December, aiming to reduce emissions by "at least 55 percent" by the end of this decade.Although Britain is leaving the EU, it also has a 2050 net-zero target built into law.
In the last budget, the government funded the establishment of a "hydrogen hub" – an area where users, producers and exporters will be located.
Today's announcement, will fund four more and potential locations include:
Bell Bay in Tasmania, the Pilbara region in WA, Gladstone in QLD, the La Trobe Valley in VIC, Whyalla in SA, the Hunter Valley in NSW and Darwin in the NT.
The government wants Australia to become a major global supplier of hydrogen by 2030 and has the goal of driving down the cost of production to less than $2 a kilogram – the point where it can compete against fossil fuels.
But there is a catch.
Getting hydrogen into a pure, useable form takes a lot of energy and this process can produce a lot of emissions.
And so, that is why experts talk about different types of hydrogen — brown, black, grey, blue and green.
Only "green" hydrogen is produced entirely through renewable power and has zero emissions. The others use electricity made by coal (black or brown) or gas (grey), sometimes with carbon capture and storage (blue).
Biden wants to convince the world America can be trusted on climate change
It’s going to be a tough sell.Senior administration officials spoke with reporters on a Wednesday call ahead of two days of remote meetings featuring world leaders like Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. While they didn’t confirm reports that the US hopes to cut emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, they did answer Vox’s question on why other nations should trust America to keep its climate promises — given the US government has swung wildly on climate policy depending on who the president is.
The Government call its hydrogen plans "clean" — a combination of hydrogen from gas and renewables.
The Climate Council says the term is "misleading" for average Australians.
Its website states: "Proponents of fossil-fuelled hydrogen have used this to describe fossil fuel hydrogen linked to carbon capture and storage, as well as renewably sourced hydrogen."
"Only the variety of hydrogen generated with renewables … belongs in our zero emissions future."
Carbon capture and storage, part of our future or an 'expensive failure'?
As part of its emissions reduction plans, the Morrison Government is also vowing to keep supporting and investigating carbon, capture, use and storage (CCS).
The process involves capturing emissions from power stations, factories – like cement or steel – transporting them and then storing them in the ground.
The extra $263.7 million being allocated in the budget will go towards more research and new "hubs".
These will be located at Moomba in SA, Gladstone in QLD, the Darling Basin in NSW, the North West Shelf and Bonaparte Basin in WA, Darwin in the NT and the south-west of WA.
‘Insufficient': Biden administration criticises Australia on climate
Australia is under mounting pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions as US President Joe Biden prepares to hold an international climate summit this week.Senior Biden administration officials told reporters they see "enormous potential" for Australia but that the country can not rely solely on advancements in technology to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Australia already has the planet's largest carbon, capture and storage project, attached to the Gorgon Gas Plant in WA.
The government insists real progress is being made on CCS technology.
However, many climate scientists believe, when it comes to fossil-fuel energy production, CCS is not a serious alternative to wind and solar power.
Some, like the Climate Council, see it as an attempt to prolong the use of fossil fuels.
"The Gorgon CCS trial has been a big, expensive failure. It is capturing less than half the emissions needed to make CCS viable," the Climate Council's website states.
"CCS is extremely expensive and cannot deliver zero emissions."
"There are still no successful projects operating anywhere in the world."
Why is the PM making these announcements now, not on budget night?
At the moment, when he's asked about issues like aged care funding and superannuation changes, Mr Morrison usually insists journalists will have to wait until budget night.
Yet, he's revealing this bit of government spending ahead of schedule and just days before taking part in US President Joe Biden's virtual greenhouse gas emissions summit.
He has faced a lot of public criticism in recent months for not committing Australia to a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
The issue is divisive internally for the Coalition.
Some Nationals, like Queensland Senator Matt Canavan, have vowed to opposed any target, claiming it will kill off coal mining jobs and manufacturing in regional areas.
However, a number of Liberal MPs in major cities fear an electoral backlash if they aren't seen to be taking the issue seriously and have been quietly urging the Government to act.
But even though Australia is still discussing a 2050 target, many climate scientists believe the world needs to act much sooner, and in a much more ambitious way, to protect the planet.
In the US, Mr Biden will use his summit to set a non-binding emissions reduction target for 2030, which will send a message to his supporters and opponents about how aggressively he will act on the issue.
While in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to soon announce commitments to cut emissions by 78 per cent by 2035.
Here, the Labor Opposition and the Greens say by contrast, the Coalition's commitments and actions are woefully inadequate.
A ban-aid solution .
Good morning, early birds. Scott Morrison has denied “forsaking” the more than 9000 Australians now stranded in India after temporarily halting all flights from the country, and Australia recorded another two Indigenous deaths in custody yesterday. It's the news you need to know, with Chris Woods.Morrison has confirmed an aid package consisting of masks, ventilators, gloves and goggles, and, in the face of criticism from families now stranded in India and federal (but definitely not Western Australia) Labor, defended the ban as due to a “jump” in cases in hotel quarantine among people coming from India.