Employment Minister Stuart Robert has denied the Morrison government’s $540 million green energy announcement was strategic days out from US President Joe Biden’s climate summit. The package will see the Morrison government spend $276 million in acceleration four hydrogen hubs in regional Australia, and $264 million in carbon capture projects. Mr Robert denied the connection between the announcement and President Biden’s summit and said Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced the first hydrogen hub in February. ‘Hydrogen is something our country has been looking at for a long long time,’ he said. ‘When it comes to hydrogen the prime minister made it very clear he wants Australia and hydrogen to be synonymous. ‘There is every opportunity for Australia to be known as a hydrogen technology superpower.’
Low emissions technology could be cheaper in Australia under a plan to attract international investment in clean energy.
The federal government has confirmed a new $565.8m plan focused on low emissions technology partnerships will be included in next month’s budget.
The proposal would see $3 to $5 added to every dollar invested in Australia, which the government claimed would create up to 2,500 jobs.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted the investment would work in tandem with Australia’s existing export industries, which would not be shut down to reduce emissions.
He said the investment would protect jobs in energy-reliant businesses while creating new ones in the low emissions technology sector.
“These partnerships mean Australia will keep leading the way in low emissions technology – that also means more jobs here at home,” he said.
“The world is changing and we want to stay ahead of the curve by working with international partners to protect the jobs we have in energy-reliant businesses and create new jobs in the low emissions technology sector.”
Canberra was also in discussions with the US, the UK, Japan, Korea and Germany over the latest proposal, which it hoped would “build on our already strong relationships”.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said progress could be achieved “when the world works together towards a common goal”.
“Australia won’t be able to make these technologies globally scalable and commercially viable all on our own,” he said.
Australia’s Special Adviser on Low Emissions Technology, Alan Finkel, will play a key role in negotiating international deals.
“So much of what we value in society – living standards, jobs, entertainment – depends on technology. The global challenge is to continue to enjoy the benefits of technology without the associated emissions,” Dr Finkel said.
The announcement came as Mr Morrison prepared to take part in global climate talks hosted by new US President Joe Biden on Thursday.
Mr Morrison has consistently avoided joining Mr Biden and a host of western powers in committing to a net zero emissions target by 2050.
But he has recently inched closer to the target, announcing his ‘preference’ to reach net zero by halfway through the century.
On Wednesday, the government also confirmed $267m towards carbon capture technology and $275m to invest in four new hydrogen hubs.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in December banned Mr Morrison from attending a virtual climate summit, as Westminster argued Australia’s climate ambitions did not warrant a seat at the table.
But the UK’s Ambassador to Australia, Vicky Treadell, was more upbeat on Wednesday about Australia’s shift towards renewable energy.
“The Prime Minister's announcements today are to be welcomed and encouraged, and we want to work with Australia,” she told Sky News.
Westminster has announced plans to slash emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared with 1990 levels, in what it described as “the world’s most ambitious climate change target”.
Ambassador Treadell said the UK had made the decision despite not being “blessed with the quantities” of renewable energy sources Australia boasted.
But she described 2021 was a “year of leadership” for the UK, with Glasgow to host a key global climate summit later this year.
“We know that we’re working against the clock to transition our economy towards that new green economy,” she told the broadcaster.
“There’s no point preaching positive, progressive behaviour if you’re not manifesting it yourself, if you’re doing real things on the ground in your own country.”