The Morrison government has stepped up support for controversial fossil fuel projects that promise to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions by approving a plan to give them carbon credits.
He followed the oil and gas company Santos, saying that a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at its Moomba gas well in South Australia depended on its access to income from carbon credits.
Angus Taylor, the Minister of Emissions Reduction, hailed the development of a method of granting credits to large-scale CCS projects as a world first. He said the credits could then be sold back to the government through its $ 4.5 billion emission reduction fund or to companies in the voluntary market, and would allow Australia to increase production of liquefied natural gas. (LNG).
“We have worked closely with industry practitioners and technical experts to develop this method, which we hope will help unlock new projects across Australia, create new jobs and generate billions of dollars in economic activity, âhe said. âIt will also support the production of clean hydrogen from existing energy resources like coal and gas. “
Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at the Australia Institute, said the move was a victory for Santos, who had spent years lobbying for access to “Australia’s only dedicated emissions reduction fund.”
He said Australian governments had pledged $ 4 billion to CCS over more than a decade, but much of the funding had not been spent and a fully operational project had yet to be produced.
âCarbon capture and storage has a dire recordâ¦ but it continues to fail on the upside,â Merzian said. âIt is concerning that 22 of the 28 CCS projects in operation around the world are aimed at enhanced oil recovery, pushing emissions underground to increase more oil, all rebranded as a measure to combat climate change. “
Analysts said giving carbon credits to a fossil fuel development that would otherwise have been built without capturing any emissions may be justifiable, but it made no sense if the whole project needed credit income. of carbon to be financially viable. In the latter case, it would increase the total CO2 released into the atmosphere, not reduce it.
Santos praised Taylor’s announcement. He said he would immediately begin the $ 210 million Moomba CCS development registration process to qualify to generate credits. It said it would permanently store 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Taylor previously announced that the government had committed $ 250 million to help design CCS hubs and support CCS technology research and commercialization, including the identification of viable geological storage sites.
The Morrison government remains divided on whether to set a goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, or increasing its emissions reduction target by 2030, ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow on next month.
He has faced further criticism of regulatory changes to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) so that it can fund a wider range of technologies, including CCS and ‘clean’ hydrogen made from gas. .
The Standing Committee for the Review of Delegated Legislation, led by liberal-conservative Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, has again suggested that changing Arena’s remit without legislation was beyond what parliament envisioned when it passed laws to create the agency, and recommended that it be defeated by the Senate.
The Emissions Reduction Fund allows landowners and businesses to bid for funding for climate-friendly projects. It has so far worked with limited success in reducing domestic emissions. The government paid $ 831 million for emission reductions and signed contracts for an additional $ 1.7 billion.
Despite this, national emissions declined only slightly under the coalition government before the Covid-19 shutdown. Government data shows that the reduction was mainly due to the boom in solar and wind power, which are not financed by the fund.
Guardian Australia revealed earlier this year that the government had appointed fossil fuel industry leaders to a committee tasked with ensuring the integrity of emission reduction fund projects.
On Friday, Taylor announced five “new priority methods” to be developed next year. They would make it possible to generate carbon credits by introducing infrastructure for recharging and refueling electric and hydrogen vehicles, using “clean hydrogen” in the gas network and for the production of electricity, and by capturing the dioxide. of carbon in the production of industrial and construction materials.
A recent report by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australia Institute suggested that around 20% of the carbon credits created through the Emissions Reduction Fund did not represent true CO2 reductions and were essentially ‘garbage cans’. “. He said the âavoided deforestationâ projects did not represent a real reduction because, in most cases, areas were never going to be cleared. The Clean Energy Regulator, which manages the fund, challenged the report’s findings.