On April 16, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. The day before, CSIRO scientists told a Senate inquiry that the world needs immediate and significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions to have any hope of preserving a climate that can support humanity.
The new institute is the jewel in the crown of the push for "clean coal". With government funding of $100 million a year, it is ostensibly about researching and commercially implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS) to combat climate change.
In fact, it is a taxpayer-funded present to the coal industry, aimed at guaranteeing profits and keeping the status quo chugging along. It is Rudd cosying up to the coal bosses and a plethora of capitalist governments and companies to spearhead another attempt to do nothing about global warming.
Among the institute's participants are many of the world's biggest mining, energy, manufacturing and finance companies, as well as resource industry groups and 16 national governments including the US, Britain, Japan, France, Germany and Canada.
The stated promise of "clean coal" is to safely remove and bury CO2 produced by coal- and gas-fired power stations, removing any need to stop burning fossil fuels for electricity generation.
CCS may play some small role in the future reduction of atmospheric CO2 levels. But what is needed now is an immediate cut in emissions. This will require phasing out coal quickly and moving to renewables. The Rudd government, however, is investing in a new institute to find ways to prolong the life of the coal industry.
The technology, which as yet is unproven, lags far behind existing renewable energy alternatives. The new institute has been widely condemned by climate campaigners.
"The earliest possible deployment of CCS at commercial scale is 2030, and the lag between commercialisation and deployment pushes the widespread uptake of CCS out to 2050, which is way too late to help in the global fight to reduce emissions to avoid dangerous climate change", said Greenpeace climate campaigner Simon Roz on April 16.
"Every public dollar Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spends on developing a dead-end technology is a dollar less for clean, renewable solutions that are on the shelf waiting to be deployed."