In its first federal budget in 13 years, the Labor Government announced it would allocate $500 million to the development of the National Clean Coal Fund to support the National Clean Coal Initiative – an initiative which will support strategies for low emission technologies out to 2030.
The fund will support activities and investments worth $1.5 billion in cooperation with the industry’s COAL21 initiative and support from other stakeholders including state governments, researchers and industry.
Coal producers are contributing more than $1 billion in funding through COAL21, which was established in 2006, and which will be used towards funding for clean coal technologies including carbon capture and storage.
The fund also includes $75 million – including $25 million from the CSIRO – to be invested in clean coal research.
Funding will commence in 2008-09 for the National Clean Coal Fund.
Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said coal, which provides around 80% of Australia’s total electricity, accounts for around 32% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
“It is also Australia’s biggest export, reflecting its importance in the global energy mix,” he said.
“Export revenue from coal is predicted to increase by around $20 billion to $43 billion in 2008-09.
“Coal is vital to the Australian economy and to the developing world … therefore no serious response to climate change can ignore the need to clean up coal.”
The Minerals Council of Australia said the budget would help tackle the capacity constraints crippling the industry.
“The Australian minerals sector is operating at the limits of its capacity,” MCA said.
“The minerals sector’s ability to expand has been hampered by chronic skills shortages, congested and poorly functioning export corridors, emerging shortages of energy and water, inadequate social and physical infrastructure in remote and regional communities, and duplicative requirements for occupational health and safety and land access and use.
“If Australia is to take full advantage of near record terms of trade then we need to address these capacity constraints so the current minerals expansion driving the economy is stronger for longer.
“This budget may not solve these problems overnight, but it signals a determination on the part of the Government to ensure Australia does not miss the opportunities offered by the China-led expansion in commodity markets."
The Government has also introduced a number of education initiatives, including an expansion of vocational training places (630,000 places over five years); $2.5 billion in funding over 10 years for school-based Trades Training Centres; and reduced students’ HECS fees for science and maths courses.