Australia and the US state of California have pledged to work together to fight climate change and support the world’s transition to renewable energy.
The memorandum of understanding creates a framework for co-operation on climate action and ecosystem protection, including through the creation of clean jobs and inclusive economic growth.
The two governments will co-operate on clean transportation, nature-based solutions, climate adaptation initiatives and developing clean energy supply chains and technologies.
The agreement will also support green finance, investment and climate-friendly business, the circular economy and broader research and development.
While the agreement won’t give Australian businesses access to the United States $500 billion Inflation Reduction Act, which has seen a surge in clean energy projects, Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said it would take co-operation between the two nations to “a new place”.
Mr Bowen said the deal came in addition to Australia securing preferential treatment under the US Defense Production Act, which resulted in climate becoming a third pillar of the alliance between the two nations.
“Increasingly around the world governments see this as a national security opportunity and challenge as well as an environmental and economic imperative,” he told ABC Radio.
“(Californian) Governor Gavin Newsom made clear to me that he was keen to collaborate on things like EV charging and joint learning, so it’s just another one of the many agreements that we’re forging around the world.”
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the California partnership would accelerate efforts to mitigate the effects of the changing climate as well as adapt to it.
Mr Bowen defended Australia’s funding commitments for measures to combat climate change compared to countries like the US.
He said a $2 billion federal budget commitment for a green hydrogen head start program was a “down payment” for further responses to the US measures.
“It needs to be carefully thought through – we said we’d have more to say later in the year and we will,” Mr Bowen said.
“The green hydrogen head start program went very well … it is well advanced now in its design and its progress and, of course, with the broader Inflation Reduction Act, (it) does need a careful response and we continue to work that through.”
Climate Council senior researcher Wesley Morgan said the partnership was a welcome development.
“California is a huge economy in their own right, and California is playing a leadership role in energy in the US and it makes sense for Australia to be working with them,” he told AAP.
“The US has realised that tomorrow’s economy is a clean-energy economy and has joined the race against China to be leading in the shift to clean energy and that has implications for Australia as well.”
However, he said both countries needed to bolster climate change reduction efforts.
Opposition climate change spokesman Ted O’Brien said any further collaboration with the US was beneficial to the bilateral relationship.
“What’s important for us in Australia is to keep an open mind to all technologies so we can decarbonise our economy without de-industrialising it,” he said.
Maeve Bannister and Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)