£535m for Australian green-energy fund; £353m for Chinese air pollution

23 March 2016
By Jack Loughran
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China's extreme air pollution problems is estimated to kill 1.4 million people a year

China's extreme air pollution problems is estimated to kill 1.4 million people a year

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the country will create a A$1bn (£535m) green-energy innovation fund, while the World Bank has approved a $500m (£353m) loan to China to clean up its air pollution.

Turnbull’s announcement represents a major departure from his predecessor's much maligned approach to combating climate change.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was criticised by environmental groups for lagging behind other advanced economies when he announced cuts to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions last year.

Abbott was ousted in a party coup by Turnbull in September and faced criticism for his strong support for the coal industry and for scrapping an ambitious carbon tax and emissions trading plan in 2014.

The new fund will focus on investing in high-tech clean energy technologies which will help with Abbott’s pledge to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, a target he submitted as part of negotiations on a global climate deal in Paris last year.

"What that is going to do is every year invest A$100m in the smartest, most cutting-edge Australian clean-energy technologies and businesses to ensure that we play our part in cracking the very hard problems, the challenging technical difficulties that we face in terms of reducing emissions," he said.

The new fund should help Australia to reduce its carbon emissions, as it is currently one of the largest emitters on a per capita basis due to its reliance on coal-fired power plants.

Critics have accused the country of doing little to match ambitious targets set by the United States and Europe.

"This will be investing in storage, in new battery technology, in smart grids, in some of the exciting solar visions that people have hoped for and imagined for Australia, but which are only now really becoming reality," said Australia’s environment minister Greg Hunt.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has approved a $500m loan to China to support companies in Beijing, Hebei, Tianjin and neighbouring areas that are taking action to tackle air pollution under a prevention and control plan adopted by China's cabinet.

The money is part of a broader programme expected to reach $1.4bn for "green financing" over the next six years that includes another half billion dollars from Hua Xia Bank and $400m in equity contributions from sub-borrowers, the World Bank said.

Hua Xia Bank said it will establish a Green Finance Centre and pilot innovative financing models and products.

China suffers from severe air pollution and is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.

At the end of last year, Beijing issued two red alerts for smog to prepare its citizens for days of extreme pollution.

Some 70 percent of the country’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, although it aims to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by increasing the share of nuclear, hydro, wind and solar power, with the goal of cutting emissions of major pollutants in the power sector.

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