Australia promises S$582 million for low emission technology

Australia is generally considered a climate laggard.
Australia is generally considered a climate laggard.PHOTO: REUTERS

CANBERRA/WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Australia will spend A$565.8 million (S$582 million) to co-fund research and pilot projects in green technologies, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday (April 22), as Canberra seeks to illustrate its commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

One of the world’s largest carbon emitters on a per-capita basis, Australia is under mounting pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions as US President Joe Biden holds a climate summit of global leaders.

While Mr Morrison has resisted global calls to commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, citing the risk of damage to Australia’s economy, on Thursday he promised co-investment worth A$565.8 million with partners from Britain, Japan, Korea and Germany.

“Getting new energy technologies to parity will enable substantial reductions in global emissions – in both developing and developed countries – and ensure countries don’t have to choose between growth and decarbonisation,” Mr Morrison said in an e-mailed statement.

“But Australia won’t be able to make these technologies globally scalable and commercially viable all on our own.” 

A source familiar with the plans said the co-investment partners include governments and private companies.

Mr Morrison said international partners will invest between three and five times the amount Australia will spend on the research and pilot programmes.

The spending, which will be allocated from Australia’s budget to be unveiled in May, is the latest outlay to be revealed from Canberra’s A$18 billion fund established to invest in low- emission technology to meet its climate pledges.

The global Paris Accord commits Australia to cutting carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels, by 2030. The government expects to achieve a 29 per cent reduction through its A$18 billion expenditure on technology over this decade.

Initial details of how Australia plans to use the A$18 billion came on Wednesday when Mr Morrison said his government would spend A$539.2 million to develop hydrogen and carbon capture projects.

But it remains to be seen if this will satisfy the United States.

This week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his diplomats would challenge countries whose inaction thwarted efforts to fight climate change.

Mr Biden is expected to use the two-day summit to unveil his goal for reducing greenhouse gases, a key part of the Paris climate accord that he had the US rejoin on his first day in office.

The US will pledge to halve US greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by the end of the decade, according to people familiar with the plans.

Washington has called out Australia’s lack of climate ambition. "Our colleagues in Australia recognise that there's going to have to be a shift," an unidentified senior member of the Biden administration told reporters on Wednesday, according to a White House statement.

"It's insufficient to follow the existing trajectory and hope that they will be on a course to deep decarbonisation and getting to net-zero emissions by mid-century."

Australia is generally considered a climate laggard, even as some of its biggest markets - China, Japan and South Korea - express increased ambition to combat climate change.