Australia launches carbon cut plan

The Australian government, which has so far refused to sign the Kyoto protocol, has launched a major carbon-cutting plan with $500m to be invested in low-carbon technologies and now plans for the world's biggest solar plant.

With Australia in the grip of the worst drought for 100 years (see related story), the government has faced increased pressure on the government to introduce an alternative path to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite dismissing suggestions that the current drought could be caused by climate change, Australian prime minister John Howard has bowed under the pressure and introduced a carbon-cutting investment plan that include renewables but centres on cleaning up emissions from coal-fired power stations.

The most spectacular of the renewable energy investments will most likely be a £170m solar plant, set to become the world’s biggest.

Although green groups welcomed the solar power project, they criticised the country’s continued reliance of coal which the announced investment in ‘clean coal’ will only perpetuate, they said.

Greenpeace Australia’s Danny Kennedy said that the “millions in drought relief” that the government was handing out to farmers were being directly undermined by the millions it was giving to the climate change-causing coal industry. Greenpeace attacked the government for investing in carbon capture and burial projects, which it called “experimental and unproven” and “10-15 years away from commercialisation.”

“Over $50 million will reportedly be handed out to Victoria’s Hazelwood coal fired power station – the most polluting in Australia. And furthermore, the government continues to pay diesel subsidies to the coal industry – the Hunter Valley coal industry alone receives $380 million per year,” he said.

“We invite the PM to reconsider his black armband view of renewables after reading these two positive and realistic reports – solar is the fastest growing form of electricity generation with growth rates of 40 per cent per year, and wind is the second fastest, at 28 per cent per year.”

Goska Romanowicz

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