The federal government is investing millions more in gas projects. Does this match its net-zero ambitions?

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Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced an additional $50.3 million for seven priority gas projects, as well as potential carbon capture and storage sites.

The Morrison government has stressed the need for projects to stop rising electricity prices and consolidate renewables into the power grid.

The answer also comes with the invasion of Ukraine causing the prices of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas to rise rapidly across Europe.

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But Alison Reeve, deputy director of the energy and climate change program at the Grattan Institute, said it was “difficult” to justify pouring more money into the sector.

“The widespread use of gas in the Australian economy is not compatible with a net zero goal,” she told SBS News.

“Increasing the gas supply at a time when we are trying to reduce emissions towards zero is counterproductive.”

The funding commitment continues the federal government’s pursuit of a controversial “gas-fire” plan following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mr Taylor said the government was accelerating priority projects to prevent the “devastating impacts” of a gas supply shortage in Australia, as seen recently in Europe.

Russian gas accounts for around 32% of total gas consumption in Europe and the UK, according to government figures.

Mr Taylor said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had created an unacceptable risk to global gas security.

“Our investment will help keep the lights on and homes warm in South Australia, and help keep our industries and businesses running,” Taylor said.

The Federal Government is working with industry to finalize pipeline expansion agreements in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

It would also conduct feasibility studies for pipelines carrying carbon dioxide from industrial centers to the Cooper, Surat and Beetaloo gas basins.

Mr Taylor pointed to a warning from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about gas supply shortages hitting southern states this year as evidence of need.

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Australia’s energy market operator also issued a warning about “risks of shortages” of gas supplies in southern states.

But Professor Mark Howden of the ANU Climate Change Institute said Australia’s emphasis on a gas-powered recovery was “very difficult to reconcile” with its net zero commitment by 2050.

“It’s not necessarily a waste of money, but there is a question about alternatives,” he told SBS News.

“Increasing our reliance on gas and gas exports will only increase our domestic emissions.

“Clearly the future of the world we envision is in renewables and whether that money could be better spent investing in renewables.”

The government’s net zero plan, unveiled last October, states that, according to modeling predictions, there will still be coal and a “significant proportion” of gas in the electricity grid by 2050.

In the 2021-2022 budget, the government also announced $38.7 million over two years to support gas infrastructure projects as part of its COVID recovery.

UN secretary general rebukes Australia

The gas pledges also come as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres named Australia as one of the G20 countries ‘resisting’ the setting of a more ambitious reduction target. for 2030.

Mr Guterres also said it would be “madness” for countries to turn to fossil fuels because of the war in Ukraine.

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But Communications Minister Paul Fletcher strongly refuted the assessment of Australia’s response to climate change.

“The talkative classes in the UN can say whatever they want. The facts are that our emissions are down 20% from 2005,” he told the ABC.

“Our technology, non-tax plan will take Australia to net zero by 2050.”

Australia has officially pledged to cut emissions by 26-28% by 2030 based on 2005 levels, but expects emissions to fall by up to 35% by then.

In a landmark report last year, the International Energy Agency also warned that no new coal-fired power plants or oil and gas fields could be developed if the world were to meet the target of Paris Agreement to prevent global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

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