Australia 2030 strategy proposes reef preservation and a hydrogen city as national missions

Innovation and Science Australia, the Australian Governments statutory advisory body on innovation, science and research matters, has identified preserving the Great Barrier Reef and developing a 'hydrogen city' as two possible National Missions that could be pursued under its strategic plan for Australia, Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation.

The stategic plan proposed a $500 million, 10-year mission involving the Australian and state and territory governments, the private sector and philanthropists and recommended a full risk assessment be undertaken during a 12-month design and validation phase, considering scale, cost, intervention and technology development risks.

The strategy document said that while the existing Reef 2050 Plan focuses on managing direct threats such as crown-of-thorns starfish and land-based run-offs, it does not have an explicit climate adaptation strategy and is therefore insufficient to safeguard the reef beyond 2030. It proposed a national mission that would l complement the Reef 2050 Plan’s emphasis on threat reduction by introducing a targeted restoration and adaptation strategy.

“This mission’s aim is to develop a capability for cost-effective restoration of the reef in portions at scale. Core areas of focus will be interventions and technologies that can:

• reduce exposure to, and impacts of, disturbance, via next-generation corals for tomorrow’s reefs (for example, translocating existing corals with elevated temperature resistance, selective breeding and assisting migration, gene modification, cryo-banking)

• increase recovery after disturbance (for example, from coral bleaching, crown-ofthorns starfish outbreaks, or cyclones)

• enable an effective ‘toolkit’ to be developed for adaptation and restoration of the reef, and reefs around the world.'

The mission would facilitate the creation of new products, start-ups, and niche industries in areas such as coral nurseries, aquaculture and aquarium technology, bioactive surfaces, bio-materials, 3D printers, autonomous reef inspection devices and sensors.

The proposal for a Hydrogen City would demonstrate that an entire city could have its reticulated gas distribution system converted to clean hydrogen by 2030.

Under the $500 million, 10-year project, the gas network of a city, all space heating, cooking appliances, and industrial thermal processes would be converted to run on pure hydrogen.

Facilities could be provided to supply hydrogen to public transport and other heavy-use vehicle fleets.

The energy used to produce the hydrogen from water would be electrical energy from zero emissions sources such as solar, wind or hydro. The project would test the feasibility of hydrogen as an energy source.

The strategy noted that the practical challenges around technology deployment, cost reduction, regulation and public engagement at scale in an existing urban environment to use hydrogen as an energy source have never before been approached.

“By taking this project through to full implementation these challenges will be thoroughly addressed.”

The Strategic Plan, Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation, is available here.