The production of low emissions hydrogen is cur rently a key priority of Australian governments, at both the national and state level. This drive has come about from the global imperative to decarbonise as hydrogen has been identified as fuel that emits no carbon pollution. However, recent research makes clear that producing so-called “low-emissions” hydrogen from fossil fuels is a risky proposition. This research highlights that making hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS) can produce significant emissions, particularly fugitive emissions, and is expensive. Renewable hydrogen, produced by the electrolysis of water powered by renewable electricity, is the clear winner. The production of renewable hydrogen will require vast amounts of land. In Australia, this land will likely be subject to First Nations’ traditionally owned property rights and interests. This is because land that is able to be claimed under native title and land rights legislation by Australian First Nations people in large areas is predominately in regions away from significant population areas, and unlikely to be industrialised (refer to map at Figure 2). A key question therefore emerges: how can First Nations’ traditional owners of this land ensure that they benefit from this emerging industry? This paper argues that the most likely vehicle through which First Nations people will benefit from large-scale hydrogen, and other clean energy projects on their land will be through negotiating strong land access and benefit sharing agreements, a process known as “agreement making”. These agreements will be pursuant to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) or other legislation recognising First Nations’ traditional ownership of land. This paper is intended to start a discussion about possible methods to strengthen agreement making practice, to make it more likely that First Nations people will benefit from the production of large-scale renewable hydrogen.

Renewable hydrogen will be produced on land traditionally owned by First Nations people: will its owners benefit?

Resource Key: FYD2SN8L

Document Type: Journal Article

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Author:

  • Lily O’Neill
  • Fiona J. Beck
  • Wenting Cheng
  • Karrina Nolan

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Date: March 2022

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The production of low emissions hydrogen is cur rently a key priority of Australian governments, at both the national and state level. This drive has come about from the global imperative to decarbonise as hydrogen has been identified as fuel that emits no carbon pollution. However, recent research makes clear that producing so-called “low-emissions” hydrogen from fossil fuels is a risky proposition. This research highlights that making hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS) can produce significant emissions, particularly fugitive emissions, and is expensive. Renewable hydrogen, produced by the electrolysis of water powered by renewable electricity, is the clear winner. The production of renewable hydrogen will require vast amounts of land. In Australia, this land will likely be subject to First Nations’ traditionally owned property rights and interests. This is because land that is able to be claimed under native title and land rights legislation by Australian First Nations people in large areas is predominately in regions away from significant population areas, and unlikely to be industrialised (refer to map at Figure 2). A key question therefore emerges: how can First Nations’ traditional owners of this land ensure that they benefit from this emerging industry? This paper argues that the most likely vehicle through which First Nations people will benefit from large-scale hydrogen, and other clean energy projects on their land will be through negotiating strong land access and benefit sharing agreements, a process known as “agreement making”. These agreements will be pursuant to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) or other legislation recognising First Nations’ traditional ownership of land. This paper is intended to start a discussion about possible methods to strengthen agreement making practice, to make it more likely that First Nations people will benefit from the production of large-scale renewable hydrogen.

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