December 04, 2020


It’s an honour to be back at the Emissions Reduction Summit. I think I’ve been to every single one of your seven summits. I’m very glad to hear that you are moving to another venue and hope that once we get through this pandemic we are able to come together again and have that wonderful exchange of ideas that we’ve had over the last several years. It has been a really great event in the climate change calendar ever year. Even though it is virtual this year I want to congratulate John and CMI members and staff on the coverage the summit has received over the last few days. It has led to some great reportage and great debate across the community – debate we frankly really need right now.
I also want to congratulate the state ministers, Labor and Liberal alike. There is enormous vision, courage and ambition coming out of all states. Most recently we saw Matt Kean, who has shown himself to be a great leader in this area. But really across the Commonwealth, Labor and Liberal alike, states are rowing in the same direction, with the private sector, to take on the challenge and enormous opportunity we have in shifting to net zero emissions by 2050.
Unfortunately, we are still not getting enough support from Canberra. All of the heavy lifting is being done at a state and territory level and, significantly, by the private sector. This week in the Parliament, again, we saw Angus Taylor and the Prime Minister boast, to use their words, that we have “smashed” the Kyoto commitment to reduce emissions by five per cent since 2000. Indeed, the emissions report we saw earlier in the week did see us squeak into a five per cent emissions reduction over the last 20 years, but only because of the enormous collapse in emissions in the June quarter and the ongoing effect on the nation’s herd because of the drought we have suffered from over the last few years.
The latest projections, over this decade, would only see our emissions reduce by four per cent, although we are anticipating new projections that will be released over the next few weeks. That is why I think the Prime Minister, although he has softened his rhetoric around Kyoto carryover credits, ensured that Senators from the Government and One Nation yesterday voted against Labor’s motion to rule out Australia using these so-called “Kyoto carryover credits.” I say so-called because they are not actually contemplated legally by the Paris Agreement.
There is a lack of support in energy and transport policy from Canberra that is well understood. But I want to acknowledge that CMI really is one of the few organisations that consistently draws attention to the importance of the Safeguard Mechanism and the inadequacy of baselines in the Mechanism as they have recently been relaxed. And also the lack of liquidity and demand in the offsets market that is going to be such an important way of driving down our domestic emissions but also over time, under the Paris Agreement, exporting emissions reduction and these offset credits to other countries like China who will be thirsty for them from an economy like ours. I want to assure you that Labor, over the number of years that CMI has been making that case, continues to hear that message and it will be a message that will be an important part of our policy development.
The Federal Government simply has to do better. The step up by states over the last couple of years, the commitment by the private sector over the last couple of years, has been enormous. The Technology Roadmap that we saw in recent months from the Government is worthy in some respects but without targets and timeframes it is not going to be an effective strategy to reduce emissions. It is like JFK in 1961 pledging to put a man on the moon, one day, sometime in the future - perhaps using a rocket. It doesn’t give a sense of mission, a sense of investor confidence that we need to drive that shift to net zero emissions by the middle of the century.
I think the Prime Minister just has to stare down the ongoing opponents in his own Coalition party room and join everyone else in making this commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. He says he is worried about the economic impact but I urge him to read the CSIRO report that Matt Kean’s government relies upon very heavily that says a net zero emissions by 2050 scenario would see stronger economic growth, higher wages and lower power bills for Australians. Analysis that you also see reflected in Deloitte’s recent work as well.
We’ve just finished the hottest November and the hottest Spring on record in Australia and it is not an El Nino year, which is generally where you would have seen these records. Earlier this week, IUCN declared that the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a supporter of 64,000 jobs in Queensland, is now on the “critical” list. And all of this at the end of a year that started with the largest bushfire season in our history.
But again, it appears to have become fashionable among many political actors across the spectrum and political commentators to say that climate change is not something that should be the focus of our attention at a time like this – and instead we should be focused on jobs and economic issues. Well, as Joe Biden said earlier this year, “when I hear the words ‘climate change’, I hear the word ‘jobs’.” It is hard to think of a more significant driver and shaper of investment and jobs - now and particularly over coming years - than the global shift to net zero emissions by 2050.
There is a race on around the world for the trillions of dollars of investment and the millions of jobs that will flow through the clean energy economy of the 21st century. As you have heard in your conference over the past few months with elections and developments overseas, that race has heated up if anything. It is a race Australia should be leading with our extraordinary renewable energy resources. Labor is committed to doing everything we can to position Australia over coming years to be a Renewable Energy Superpower.
I really value the relationship, the engagement, the very frank exchange of ideas that I’ve had over my years in this portfolio with CMI and I look forward to it continuing as we develop our policies to take to the next federal election. Thanks John, and thanks to your CMI audience for having me back for this virtual summit.