Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been striving to skirt international embarrassment on climate since Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration in January. Biden called a major international summit for Earth Day this past Thursday, at which he sought to corral the world towards concrete 2030 emissions reduction targets and net zero by 2050.
Unfortunately, Morrison managed to embarrass himself and Australia at the summit anyway, with Zoom troubles undermining his “technology roadmap”-heavy speech.
The Earth Day Summit drove the optics of Morrison’s Wednesday announcement of $540m in “clean energy funding”, which supportive media were trumpeting as supporting “2,500 new green jobs.”
Yet of that “clean” funding, $263 million is to be dedicated to resurrecting the zombie of carbon capture and storage (CCS). Yes, even under the cover of Earth Day the government managed another hand-out to the fossil fuel sector.
Morrison’s current chief of staff is John Kunkel. Kunkel was previously deputy CEO of mining lobbyists the Minerals Council.
CCS, which has been “under development” in Australia for 20 years, implausibly proposes that power stations that recapture the carbon emissions from burning carbon fuel sources could compete with renewable energy technologies. This is despite the fact that building and operating renewables is already cheaper than just the operating costs of coal power stations.
CCS’s famous pilot project, implemented at Victoria’s Hazelwood coal power plant, was dubbed Hazelwood 2030. The Hazelwood plant closed in 2017.
The other half of the $540 million is intended for setting up “hydrogen hubs.” As usual, actual details or plans were not forthcoming, but the government says “potential” sites include Gladstone, Moomba, SA, the Darling Basin in NSW and WA’s Northwest Shelf.
Hydrogen fuel relies on using electricity to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be shipped elsewhere and re-oxidising to release energy. As such, it is an agnostic energy medium, which can be produced by renewable or fossil fuels.
Fortunately, the rest of the world made far more helpful Earth Day contributions. The US announced a 50% emissions reduction target for 2030. Japan’s 2030 target is 46% and Canada’s 40-46%.
Korea announced it will no longer co-finance overseas coal projects, while China says it will peak coal power generation by 2025.
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