It is hard to take Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap seriously when it comes from this minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, who by now really should not have a job. It’s difficult to think of a less credible member of the Morrison government – or any government in living memory – given the succession of scandals that he or his office have been involved in, from selling inflated water rights to poisoning native grasslands to peddling doctored documents. But perhaps the biggest scandal of all is that, in the wake of Australia’s Black Summer bushfires, this ridiculous minister for energy has come up with a policy that cannot even be clear about decarbonising the economy by 2050 – a goal endorsed by state and territory governments of both major political parties, as well as a plethora of industry and environment groups. In this, Taylor has the full support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who dissembled like a demon on Insiders on Sunday, saying: “Our policy is to achieve that in the second half of this century, and we’ll certainly achieve that.” That could mean the year 2099 for all we know. According to experts interviewed by Guardian Australia, failing to endorse a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 puts Australia in breach of the Paris Agreement. Without the 2050 target, or the intermediate 2035 target that we are promised is coming soon, Taylor’s plan is – as has been widely observed today – a roadmap to nowhere.
Taylor’s plan outlines five key low-emissions technologies in which the federal government “expects” to invest $18 billion over the next decade, including via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Solutions Fund, in the hope of attracting some $50 billion of new investment. The technologies are: “clean” hydrogen production, energy storage, green steel and aluminium, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and soil carbon. As RenewEconomy reported today, the plan focuses “firmly on technologies that favour fossil fuels, farmers and big energy users”, and the inclusion of both CCS and “clean” hydrogen (rather than renewable hydrogen) is especially suspect. Greens leader Adam Bandt described the plan as a “fig leaf for the continued expansion of the fossil-fuel industry”.
The clincher in Taylor’s speech at the National Press Club today was the line that “Australia can’t and shouldn’t damage its economy to reduce emissions.” This shows that (a) he doesn’t understand the opportunity that is being missed as his government bumps along the bottom with what Labor claims is the 21st attempt at an overarching energy policy; and (b) he doesn’t understand the damage that accelerating climate change will do (and has already done) to the economy. All this leaves Australia at sea. As independent MP Zali Steggall, who unseated former prime minister Tony Abbott on a climate platform, responded: “The government is taking us on a detour. The roadmap is not the most efficient or economic way of reducing emissions, and not the way that delivers the most jobs … This is not a roadmap but a historical sightseeing tour of technologies, like carbon capture and storage, that have cost a lot and delivered little.”
The most offensive part of Taylor’s announcement today? His weasel words when asked whether anyone on the National COVID-19 Commission’s advisory board, headed by Nev Power, would stand to benefit personally from the Morrison government’s plans for a gas-fired recovery. Would they benefit, yes or no? “Well, it’s not something that I’m even focused on,” said Taylor. “I’m focused on delivering a plan that is right for the country and we make the decisions. We made the decisions here that I’ve announced. We made the decisions that I announced last week. That’s the role of government.”
Coming from Angus Taylor, that is simply unbelievable.