WTO head: Australia should focus on green hydrogen

Australia should aim to reduce its reliance on coal exports and instead focus on green hydrogen, according to the head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Speaking to local station ABC, WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said green hydrogen was “rightly where attention should go”.

“We know that coal is one of those fossil fuels that leads to very high carbon emissions. So I think it would be good if Australia could move on its green hydrogen path that it is developing,” she added. “That’s going to be so important as an industry, which will create new jobs. It will be so important to help in the world.”

She said it was likely Australia would have to grapple with countries imposing export restrictions on carbon-emitting products, and that the WTO allows members to adopt trade-related measures aimed at protecting the environment.

“There are countries that are saying that they will put a tax or a price on carbon emitting products. I’m sure that as time goes on, as countries strive to achieve the path to net zero emissions by 2050, you will see more of that,” she said. “That time is already here, I think.” 

Her comments come at a crucial juncture for the country’s energy sector, with the new government keen to move away from its historical dependence on fossil fuels and mining, and instead invest heavily in renewables.

Last month, for example, the government unveiled plans to build renewable energy zones, wind projects and underwater electricity interconnectors as the new government continues to pivot towards green energy projects.

The announcements by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s centre-left Labor government, which came to power earlier this year promising climate reforms, will see the state of Victoria receive A$1.5 billion ($948 million) of concessional financing for Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) and offshore wind development projects, the government said in a statement.

Victoria will also receive a concessional loan of A$750 million to ensure the underwater electricity interconnector between Victoria and New South Wales, the VNI West KerangLink, is completed by 2028.