Australia commits to green energy, dumps Chinese coal mine and BRI

International partners are expected to invest between three and five times the amount Canberra plans to spend on the research and pilot programmes

Australia commits to green energy, dumps Chinese coal mine, BRI
A reclaimer loads coal into piles at the port of Newcastle in New South Wales. File photo by Reuters.

(ATF) Australia will spend more than US$400 million to co-fund research and pilot projects in green technologies. The announcement, to coincide with the Biden Climate Summit, came a day after the country's most populous state cancelled a Chinese coal mine project.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison – who has resisted global calls to commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, citing the risk of economic damage – said green energy co-investment worth A$565.8 million would be announced, involving partners from the UK, Japan, South Korea and Germany.

"We’ll work closely with our friends and neighbours to play our part in the global effort to cut emissions through technology while driving economic growth, creating jobs and pushing down energy costs," Morrison will say, according to extracts of the announcement seen by Reuters.

International partners are expected to invest between three and five times the amount Australia will spend on the research and pilot programmes.

One of the world's largest carbon emitters on a per capita basis, Australia is under mounting pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

AIMING AT PARIS GOALS

The spending, which will be allocated from Australia's budget to be unveiled next month, is the latest outlay to be revealed from Canberra's A$18 billion fund established to invest in low-emission technology to meet its climate pledges.

The global Paris Accord commits Australia to cutting carbon emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels, by 2030. The government expects to achieve a 29% reduction through its A$18 billion expenditure on technology over this decade.

The initiative comes a day after the New South Wales government reached an agreement with a local subsidiary of China Shenhua Energy to cancel a controversial open-cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley, a couple of hours north of Sydney.

Shenhua Watermark Coal said the state government in Australia agreed to buy out its exploration permit for the Watermark coal project for A$100 million, and that this reflected changes in "economic and social circumstances" since the mine was proposed.

The A$1 billion thermal and semi-soft coking coal mine in Dartbrook was opposed by farmers and indigenous groups. New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro said "an open-cut mine is not in line with extensive community consultation" adding that tenders would open for an underground mine at nearby Wollar.

BELT UNBUCKLED

In a separate development, Australia cancelled two deals struck by Victoria - its second most populous state - with China on cooperation with Beijing's flagship Belt and Road Initiative.

Under a new process, Foreign Minister Marise Payne has the power to review deals reached with other nations by the country's state governments, universities and other bodies. On Wednesday she halted four deals, two involving infrastructure investment that Victoria agreed on with China in 2018 and 2019.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has defended the deals on the basis that they would provide more jobs and economic opportunities for the state.

China's embassy in Australia voiced its "strong displeasure and resolute opposition" to the cancellations late on Wednesday. "This is another unreasonable and provocative move taken by the Australian side against China," the embassy said in a statement.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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green economy coal energy Australia-China tension China Australia diplomacy