MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s conservative government on Thursday released a fresh plan to tackle climate change, targeting the use of gas, hydrogen, batteries and carbon capture, while avoiding the contentious issue of setting a carbon price.
Australia, one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters per capita, has struggled for more than a decade to formulate a long-term plan for a low carbon economy amid a politically charged debate between fossil fuel supporters and opponents.
The latest proposal, which the government aims to turn into formal policy by September, is based on driving down energy storage costs to back up wind and solar power, electrifying industrial processes and scaling up hydrogen production.
“At its core, this is about technology not taxes. It means reducing emissions, not reducing jobs and the economy,” Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said in a statement.
Green groups, however, oppose the plan for its continued reliance on fossil fuels, like gas and coal. They, along with mining, energy and other big corporations, have argued for the introduction of a price on carbon to drive green investment.
The government, which sees gas- and coal-fired power as needed in the medium term to help back up renewables, is looking to take advantage of Australia’s abundant supply of natural gas.
It also wants to develop an electric vehicle strategy, slash the cost of producing hydrogen and find ways to bring down the costs of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which opponents say is an unproven and expensive technology.
The so-called technology roadmap is designed to help Australia meet its Paris Climate Accord commitment to cut carbon emissions by between 26% and 28% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The oil and gas industry, big energy users and the Clean Energy Council welcomed the proposals, while anti-fossil fuel advocates said the plan was misguided.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin)