Australia worse than US in proportional support for fossil fuels over clean energy, research shows

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday July 16, 2020


Governments across Australia have committed almost four times as much public funding to fossil fuel projects than clean energy since early 2020, new research has found.

The Australia Institute this week has launched a COVID-19 tracker of fossil fuel and clean energy stimulus, in partnership with 13 other international organisations.

According to the Energy Policy Tracker, the world’s 20 richest countries have committed USD $151 billion ( AUD $216 b) of public money to support fossil fuels since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

Those countries also account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Of the G20 governments, only 20% have made commitments to fossil fuels conditional on “green requirements”, like setting climate targets or putting pollution reduction plans in place.

The tracker shows Australian governments have committed at least US$479.51 million (A$686m) in unconditional fossil fuel support across seven policies. Meanwhile, US$121.67m (A$174m) has been committed in clean energy through eight policies.

The Australia Institute’s director climate and energy program, Richie Merzian, noted Australia ranked worse than the US in proportional support for fossil fuels over clean energy.

He urged the government to look to the UK “as an example of how to prioritise the energy systems of the future”, rather than continuing to rely on past systems.

“Australian governments continue to prop up the coal and natural gas sectors with fee waivers, fast-tracked projects and direct investments, further entrenching Australia’s position as the third largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world,” he said.

“It will be disappointing but not surprising if Australia misses the opportunity to lever the economic recovery from COVID-19 to address the climate crisis that only a few months earlier contributed to unprecedented bush fires across the country.”

Energy minister Angus Taylor has previously stated that gas will play a large part in Australia’s economic recovery from the virus, and the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission’s Manufacturing Taskforce has called for Australia to create a globally competitive domestic gas market.

Read more: COVID-19 Coordination Commission’s manufacturing taskforce wants to grow Australia’s gas industry to build post-pandemic economy

The energy Policy Tracker shows that G20 governments have committed a total of at least US$89 b (A$127 b) to clean energy, but 81% of the support has been unspecific about the appropriate environmental safeguards.

The launch of the tracker has come ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers’ meeting this week.

In an address to the International Energy Agency Clean Energy Transition Summit, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called on world leaders to choose greener options.

“A growing number of coalitions of investors and real economy stakeholders are advocating for a recovery aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. But many have still not got the message,” he said.

“New research on G20 recovery packages released this week shows that twice as much recovery money — taxpayers’ money – has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy. Today I would like to urge all leaders to choose the clean energy route.”

Read more: New research finds Australia’s carbon footprint could become among world’s largest


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