CANBERRA, AAP – Scott Morrison has promised to spend an extra $540 million on clean energy projects ahead of a climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden.
The prime minister expects the projects to create more than 2500 jobs and drive down emissions across the country.
About half of the money will be spent building hydrogen hubs in industry-exposed regional areas, such as the Pilbara in Western Australia and Whyalla in South Australia.
The rest of the money will go towards carbon capture and storage facilities.
The choice of investments are guaranteed to fuel debate around whether the projects are the best way to spend money in the clean energy sector.
But the prime minister insists the twin technologies will be crucial if Australia plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
“We want to make clean energy more affordable and reliable while looking for ways our investments can get more people into work,” he said on Wednesday.
“We cannot pretend the world is not changing.
“If we do, we run the risk of stranding jobs in this country, especially in regional areas.”
The strategy forms part of the government’s plan to cut carbon emissions and comes ahead of a global Leaders Climate Summit, hosted by the United States on Thursday to coincide with Earth Day.
Australia’s peak oil and gas industry body said the investment in new hydrogen and carbon capture and storage projects would be a massive boost for the sector.
“Developing a local hydrogen industry could enable lower emissions both in Australia and internationally, reduce energy costs, deliver energy security, together with new employment and manufacturing opportunities,” APPEA chief executive Andrew McConville said.
Carbon capture technology was already recognised as an effective greenhouse gas emissions abatement solution.
“Australia has a natural competitive advantage to implement CCS at scale,” Mr McConville said.
“We need low-cost carbon abatement to maintain Australia’s position as a leading energy exporter.”
Mr Morrison earlier this week pledged to protect industry on the road to net zero carbon emissions “preferably by 2050”.
But he also admitted Australia’s energy mix will have to change over the next 30 years to achieve that.
The US and China – the world’s two biggest carbon polluters – have agreed to co-operate to curb climate change, leaving Australia increasingly isolated.
US President Joe Biden is poised to announce a more ambitious 2030 target along his road to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.