Solar Systems via AP
This solar power plant in California's Mojave Desert, where panels reflect light up to a central power, is similar to the one that Australia says it will help fund.
updated 10/25/2006 10:58:55 AM ET 2006-10-25T14:58:55

The Australian government announced Wednesday it will help build the largest solar power plant in the world as part of a new strategy to combat global warming.

The government, under fire for refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, will contribute $57 million to the $319 million project to build a 154 megawatt solar power plant in Victoria state that will use mirrored panels to concentrate the sun's rays, Treasurer Peter Costello said.

"The project aims to build the biggest photovoltaic project in the world," Costello told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The government also announced $38 million funding toward a $274 million project to reduce carbon emissions from an existing coal-fired power house in Victoria.

The project aims to reduce pollution in part by capturing and storing emissions from the burning coal.

"This will make a major contribution to emission reduction in Australia and it just shows practical, considered, financially viable, workable technologies which will help us on our way to reduce global warming," Costello said.

The two projects are the first to be funded under a $379 million package announced this week to combat global warming.

Environmental groups and opposition lawmakers said the government needed to do more to address Australia's reputation as the world's worst greenhouse gas polluter per capita.

Greenpeace spokesman Danny Kennedy suspected the announcements could be a strategy to neutralize concern about climate change in the lead up to elections due late next year.

"If the federal government's strategy is to lay out a series of ... announcements from now to the election, it is a thinly disguised attempt to avoid the real action that is needed — moving Australia away from polluting coal," Kennedy said.

While Australia and the United States refused to sign on to Kyoto, both have become founding members the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Energy Development — which also includes China, Japan, India and South Korea.

The partnership aims to cooperate to find new technologies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases believed to be warming Earth's atmosphere.

With Australia in the grips of its worst drought in a century, the government is under pressure to do more prevent global warming.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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