The Federal Government has announced a $2 billion injection and rebranding of the Emissions Reduction Fund as the 'Climate Solutions Fund' in a bid to resurrect policy that might see Australia meet its Paris agreement obligations.
The funds, to be provided over a ten-year period, will be used to extend the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF), which was established by the Abbott Government, and will bring the total funding for the project to $3.5 billion.
“There will be further announcements ahead but as part of the $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package, we will invest a further $2 billion in the Climate Solutions Fund,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Morrison is expected to announce $50m in grants for businesses and community organisations to support energy efficiency projects, as well as an additional $17m to help building owners benchmark their energy use.
Modelling released by the Government shows that the Emissions Reduction Fund has so far resulted in 193 million tonnes of emissions reduction.
The announcement comes after Mr Morrison claimed that the country would reach its Paris obligations “in a canter”, despite the UN’s Environment Emissions Gap Report showing Australia likely to fail in its 2030 reduction targets.
The announcement was met with a swift rebuke from the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), which questioned whether the fund had achieved any serious impact in reduction.
“Since coming to office in September 2013 the Coalition has made no progress in reducing Australia’s overall emissions, despite having the Emissions Reduction Fund, so it’s hard to see how continuing with the same methods will lead to a different results,” ACF’s Climate Change & Clean Energy program manager, Gavan McFadzean, said.
“Rio Tinto is one of the world’s largest companies. It is disturbing that it will receive what looks to amount to several million dollars from government climate change programs to switch from burning one fossil fuel to another", ACF CEO Kelly O'Shannessy said.
“In public statements Rio Tinto told the Gove community the closure of the oil refinery and switch to diesel generation was commercial. If this is correct, serious questions need to be asked about why this project was publicly funded.
“There is also a question about whether a big polluter should be given public funds for simply complying with the safeguard mechanism.
“The crediting of this project is further evidence there are significant structural problems with the emissions reduction fund when it allows major industrial companies to receive public money meant for climate action to burn fossil fuels.
“Recently it emerged the owners of the polluting Vales Point coal-fired power plant had managed to get a project registered under the emissions reduction fund and yesterday it was revealed that South African miner Gold Fields won an ERF contract to burn gas under a project that would have gone ahead anyway.
“Industrial and facility methods under the emissions reduction fund that allow major industrial players like Rio Tinto to get this kind of handout must be scrapped and the program fixed."