A short-term emergency boost in coal exports, rather than replacing Russian gas, is on the cards for Australia as Europe looks to emulate our solar energy success.
The election of an Australian government with a climate policy in line with Europe will also help to finalise a trade pact, European Union ambassador to Australia Michael Pulch told AAP on Monday.
“It’s clear that climate played an important role in the election,” Dr Pulch said.
“The Australian electorate has voted in a more proactive policy on climate change.”
The EU has increased its 2030 climate ambition, committing to cutting emissions by at least 55 per cent this decade, which is more ambitious than Australia’s plans, and aims to be carbon neutral by 2050.
The ambassador says the European parliament requires any political or economic agreement it signs must be a “net positive” on climate change.
“That has an impact on what we are doing in Australia because we are currently negotiating a free trade agreement,” he said.
The climate agenda and sustainable trade chapters will form part of that pact.
“It’s very important to us, as well as access to rare earths for energy efficient technologies.”
Other sectors such as agriculture and greater access for investment in energy sectors would also be key, he said.
Dr Pulch told an energy conference he expects a short-term spike in coal and nuclear energy usage as Europe tries to end its dependency on Russian gas.
A medium-term fall in fossil fuel consumption should follow, in line with climate commitments, he said.
As the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, Australia plays a leading role in meeting the gas needs of Asia.
“We do not necessarily expect that Australian LNG will reach the European market in significant quantity,” Dr Pulch said.
“But it could increase to Asian markets, and therefore free up capacity to be redirected.
“We also need to have a supply of critical minerals to develop energy efficient technologies and we’re looking forward to working more closely with Australia.”
Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia, said Fortescue Future Industries was providing a way forward with the development of green hydrogen.
“This would really help Europe diversity,” he said.
Mr Myroshnychenko said if Russia was allowed to continue to sell gas to Europe, it could sustain war in Ukraine for another two years.
He said Ukraine would continue to buy Australian coal, as most power stations in country were coal-fired.
“We’ll be buying more of your coal because we need it,” he said.
“We’ve also been sourcing uranium here in Australia.”
Energy professor Frank Jotzo said he expected Russian energy exports to be redirected to China and South Asia.
He also predicted more investment in fossil fuels in the short-term but a more rapid transition to renewable energy in the longer term because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Renewables were a “freedom energy” where countries could control the source and supply chains on their own soil or in friendly countries, he said.
He expected Australia to have an advantage in supplying zero carbon energy as a member of the “friendly club”, and was already a favoured jurisdiction for investment in the energy transition.
Dr Pulch said a new solar initiative announced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was “copying” Australia in some ways, in that it would emulate widespread adoption.
The new policy makes rooftop solar compulsory on Europe’s commercial and public buildings by 2027, and on residential buildings by 2029.