Australia to Fund Lower-Emissions Projects Ahead of Biden Summit

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Australia has announced more than $420 million in new funding for emissions-reductions projects, days before Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends President Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit of global leaders.

As part of Morrison’s annual budget, to be formally announced on May 11, the government will invest A$275.5 million ($214 million) to speed development of four hydrogen hubs in regional Australia and implement a clean hydrogen certification scheme. It will spend another A$263.7 million to support the development of carbon capture, use and storage hubs.

“We cannot pretend the world is not changing,” Morrison said in an emailed statement Tuesday. “If we do, we run the risk of stranding jobs in this country, especially in regional areas.”

Australia Backs Big Emitters to Lead Way to Net-Zero Emissions

The announcement comes as international pressure mounts on Australia, one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel exporters and per-capita emitters, to commit to a hard target to reach net-zero emissions. The nation 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.

In a speech to business leaders in Sydney on Monday night, Morrison reiterated he wants Australia to achieve net-zero emissions “as quickly as possible and preferably by 2050,” which he said would be done “by the pioneering entrepreneurial-ism and innovation of Australia’s industrial workhorses, farmers and scientists.”

President Biden is expected to use the summit, starting Thursday, to unveil the U.S. goal for reducing greenhouse gases, a key part of the Paris climate accord that he had the U.S. rejoin on his first day in office. He wants other world leaders to use the meeting “to outline how their countries also will contribute to stronger climate ambition,” according to a White House release.

Morrison’s new investment announcement is part of his Technology Investment Roadmap, which will guide A$18 billion of government investment over the next decade.

The government backing is designed to help commercialize “low emissions technologies like hydrogen and CCS/CCUS, that can support our industries and critical economic sectors,” Morrison said in the statement. “Our technology-first approach will see Australia achieve its emissions reduction goals while continuing to grow our export industries and also supporting our trading partners’ efforts to decarbonize.”

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