The Australian government has unveiled over A$1.1 billion (US$851.6 million) in additional funding in its upcoming budget to help cut emissions.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed this week that the government would set aside A$539.2 million in the upcoming 2021-2022 budget to invest in new hydrogen and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.

This will include A$275.5 million directed towards helping accelerate the development of four additional clean hydrogen hubs in regional Australia, as well as for the implementation of a clean hydrogen certification scheme.

The remaining A$263.7 million will be used to help support the development of CCS and carbon capture, storage and utilisation (CCUS) hubs.

Morrison claimed the investments would help create about 2500 jobs, as well as support Australian industry and manufacturing, while driving down emissions.

“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,” Morrison said.

“Australia can and will continue to meet and beat our emissions-reduction commitments, while protecting and growing jobs, by commercialising low-emissions technologies like hydrogen and CCS/CCUS, that can support our industries and critical economic sectors.

"And when we commercialise those technologies, they also create new jobs.”

Australia’s Minister for Energy & Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, added that the additional investment in hydrogen and CCS/CCUS by the government would help reduce technical and commercial barriers to deploying the technologies.

“It will encourage new large-scale investment from the private sector, creating jobs and supporting Australia’s economic recovery, particularly in regional areas,” he said.

“Australia’s potential to supply our trading partners with low-cost, clean energy and permanently and safely store emissions underground has our trading partners, including Japan, South Korea and Singapore, excited.”

International partnerships

In a separate statement on Thursday, it was also revealed the upcoming budget will include a new A$565.8 million commitment from the government for backing low-emissions international technology partnerships and initiatives by co-funding research and demonstration projects.

The government stated the partnerships would leverage A$3 to A$5 of co-investment for every dollar invested, adding it is already in discussions with potential partners.

The government also claimed its plan of taking advantage of new low-emission export opportunities would not see it look to replace Australia’s existing export industries, such as agriculture, aluminium, coal and gas.

Taylor added that the technologies being prioritised under the government’s Technology Investment Roadmap has the potential to substantially reduce or eliminate emissions from sectors that account for 90% of global emissions.

“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,” he stated.

Climate summit

The financial commitments to tackle emissions in the upcoming budget comes as Morrison is set to address a two-day virtual climate summit on Thursday evening hosted by US President Joe Biden.

While Australia is still not committed to a net-zero emissions target, earlier this week Morisson gave indications the government is working towards the target being set by other nations of being net zero by 2050.

In a speech to business leaders in Sydney on Tuesday, Morrison admitted Australia’s energy mix needs to change over the next 30 years "on the road to net-zero emissions".

However, he indicated the government is hoping to achieve this through new technologies and “the animal spirits of capitalism", while ruling out additional taxes, such as a carbon price.

Not declaring war on industry

Speaking to national broadcaster ABC Radio on Thursday, Taylor said the government would not “declare war on an industry” in a bid to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 amid calls for the government to halt the expansion of the nation’s fossil fuel industry.

Under fire: Australia's Minister for Energy & Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor has defended the country's 2030 emissions target despite lagging behind other nations Photo: AP/SCANPIX

“The fuel sources will evolve, but we know there’s technologies available now that will allow us to use coal-fired generators without the emissions we’ve seen in the past, we know that there’s technologies emerging fast now that allow us to use gas-fired power generators in ways that they haven’t in the past and bring down emissions at the same time," he said.

While not setting a long-term goal to net zero, the Australian government has set a near-term target of reducing emissions by between 26% and 28%, below 2005 levels, by 2030.

While it is on track to meet this goal, it still lags well behind the UK, which this week pledged to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels, while the European Union is targeting a 55% reduction by 2030, compared to 1990.

Meanwhile, Biden is widely expected to pledge to cut US emissions by half by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, at Thursday’s climate summit.

Facing criticism that Australia is lagging behind its peers, Taylor stated the 2030 emission reduction target was “a floor … not a cap”, claiming the government is aiming to surpass the target.

“Politicians’ promises are one thing (but) delivery is what counts. There are lots of countries that have made promises in the past and pulled out … What counts, at the end of the day, is delivery,” he said.