Why Australia is investing $90m in big polluting industries

Almost $90 million will be invested to help some of Australia’s biggest polluting industries halve emissions by 2035.

The funds will be allocated under a new plan led by the CSIRO targeting agriculture, steel manufacturing and other hard-to-abate industries.

Work is already underway to reduce the impact of stationary energy production, fuel use and passenger transport, which made up 80 per cent of Australia’s accountable emissions in 2020.

A huge plume of smoke coming from steel manufacturing in Wollongong.
While efforts are underway to transform stationary energy production, the CSIRO will also focus on reforming steel manufacturing and agriculture. Source: Getty

The CSIRO’s Towards Net Zero Mission, which was announced on Tuesday, will see its scientists partner with industry groups to accelerate the transformation of industries largely responsible for the remaining 20 per cent.

What sort of projects will benefit from the $90 million?

Research funds will also be directed towards some regional economies and assist in projects including developing green steel, carbon sequestration technologies, livestock feed and sustainable aviation fuel.

CSIRO believes transforming polluting industries helps turns a problem into “new economic growth”.

Around $70 million will come from taxpayers, while almost $20 million will be invested by industry and other organisations.

Why partner with industry to achieve emissions reductions?

The project is just the latest "mission" from the CSIRO, with another recent announcement centring around the development of protein.

Alex Cooke from the CSIRO's Mission program told Yahoo News Australia that with 2035 less than 13 years away, traditional grants would be too slow in providing solutions that could meet emissions reduction targets.

"We're hoping over time by working together this will accelerate our ability to meet ambitions of decarbonisation," he said.

While the project starts with $90 million in funding, he hopes over time it will attract new external partners who will invest more into the program.

Cattle in the northern part of Australia looking through a fence.
Agriculture will be one of the industries focused on by the CSIRO initiative. Source: AAP

Which companies are part of the project?

CSIRO will be partnering with a wide range of industry heavyweights with established specialisations in a variety of fields:

  • Qantas (aviation)

  • Boeing (aerospace, weapons)

  • BHP (mining)

  • KPMG (auditing and accounting)

  • Incitec Pivot (fertiliser, mining, explosives)

Industry peak body collaborators include Meat and Livestock Australia. CSIRO will also work with Queensland’s department of agriculture, universities, and a number of climate change advocacy groups.

The $90 million will be invested over 5 years through partnerships with government and industry. It includes:

  • $22.7m funding from CSIRO

  • $48.1m funding from governments (state and federal)

  • $19.1m funding from industry, universities, philanthropic organisations

Net zero will see everyday life in Australia overhauled

With the world transitioning to low emissions business modelling, the CSIRO said the plan will ensure agriculture remains profitable in Australia.

Its chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said transforming hard-to-abate industries will be “critical to our nation’s future prosperity”.

“Reaching net zero means a fundamental reimagining of everything we do,” he said.

“The transition will take place not just with technology, but through economic, political and social spheres.”

He believes the shift towards a new way of living that involves overhauling energy systems, fuels and financing methods will take place at a scale “which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes” and that community and the economy must be supported during the process.

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