December 14, 2020


SUBJECTS: Emissions projections; UK climate summit; Mathias Cormann and climate change.

PAUL CULLIVER, HOST: There is a lot that goes on in Central Queensland that contributes to our fight against climate change and climate change itself, whether it's the coal, the renewable energy, our manufacturing sector. The question is, are we doing enough to prevent catastrophic climate change? On Friday, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that he says Australia is very confident that it will now achieve our 2030 target, that's our Paris Climate commitments, without the need to draw on carryover credits that Australia earned from overachieving on our Kyoto era commitments. Question is, is that the way we're going? Mark Butler is the Shadow Minister for Climate and Energy. Good morning to you. Is this job done, we've succeeded what we wanted to
CULLIVER: Is this job done, we've succeeded what we wanted to?
BUTLER: No, the emissions projections show that we're not going to meet the Paris targets of 2030. Those were targets set by Tony Abbott, to have a cut of 26 to 28 per cent by the end of this decade. Last week, in spite of the impact on emissions from the COVID pandemic, the projections showed that emissions will only have reduced by 22 per cent and the vast bulk of that, about two thirds of that reduction, was done under the Rudd and Gillard governments back in the last decade. Over the course of this decade to 2030 there is going to be pretty modest emissions reductions of less than 7 per cent. And almost all of that is being delivered really by state government policies on renewable energy, Liberal governments and Labor governments, including the government up in Queensland, but particularly the New South Wales Liberal government announced a very ambitious plan on renewable energy recently. So there are some emissions reduction happening in the economy, but they're almost all happening because of decisions of state governments and individual households who are rushing to put solar on their roofs because of the impact it has on their power bills.
CULLIVER: So I'm trying to understand this, if the Prime Minister is saying we're now on track. In fact, he says we don't even need those Kyoto carryover credits, but you're saying we're not on track? How do we make sense of that difference of opinion?
BUTLER: It's pretty easy, it's not a matter of opinion. It's just the numbers, I've got the table in front of me it says between 2005 and 2030, according to the government's data, not my data, there will be a reduction of 22 per cent. And at that rate, given that we will only be reducing emissions by less than 7 per cent, over this decade, it would take by my calculations about 146 years, at that rate to get to net zero emissions.
CULLIVER: Mark Butler is my guest, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy with the ALP. We're talking through what our projections are for emissions targets. When it comes down to it what should the Federal Government be doing if we have now nine years or so to make that target - what needs to change?

BUTLER: First of all, we need to give businesses the confidence that this is a country serious about reducing emissions. The best way to do that is to commit to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. What you saw over the weekend, and the reason why Scott Morrison wasn't allowed to speak at the big leaders summit, is that at all of the great trading nations of the world, the US, China, Japan, all of Europe, UK, South Korea, and many others are coalescing around this commitment to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. But Scott Morrison refuses to make that same commitment. And businesses are uncertain about what that means for their future investment decisions. Also, you need real policy to help reduce emissions in those parts of the economy - not the energy sector, where state governments are doing good things - but other parts of the economy where the Government’s own projections show that emissions are going to rise. So in transport, in the industrial sector and a range of other sectors where the government could act, could put in place some pretty modest policies that would frankly align with a lot of what businesses want to do anyway.
CULLIVER: People in Central Queensland, you might hear the idea of more aggressively combating emissions and they might hear that as a call to close down coal, to stop mining coal to lose those jobs in our economy. What do you say to that?
BUTLER: Well, there's nothing that would be done in Canberra under a Liberal or Labor government that would determine whether or not a coal mine is successful in Queensland. We support all of the big exporting industries and in Queensland there is none bigger than coal and gas. What happens to those industries in the future is not going to be determined in Canberra. It will be determined, as those industries well understand, by decisions taken in our traditional markets, like in Japan and South Korea, increasingly in places like China and India. So it's not really a question of what Canberra does, because the health of those mines, the future of those mines is really in the hands of overseas customers.
CULLIVER: You did mention the fact that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not afforded a speaking slot at this summit over the weekend. The reporting around that suggests that he was not coming to the table with I suppose ambitious enough ideas or commitments for Australia, and that's why he wasn't afforded the slot. I will note Senator Matt Canavan, who of course lives here in Rocky posted on Facebook over the weekend, he said, why are all these lefties upset that we didn't get a chance to join a zoom call on climate change with Britain? So I'll put that to you? Why does it matter?
BUTLER: Well, whether or not Scott Morrison joined a zoom call with the Prime Minister of Britain doesn't matter in and of itself. And, you know, the Prime Minister is making this about himself a bit more than he really should and whether or not Boris Johnson had welched on a commitment they had given him. Why it really matters, though, is that it reflects where the Australian Government sits relative to the rest of the world. We’ve seen these really big changes over the last several months, with China, Japan and South Korea, our three biggest export markets, all take the decision to commit to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. The election of Joe Biden in the US is going to have huge impacts around the world because he's made it clear, as has Europe and the UK, that he will start to factor in climate policies into trade policy as well. So potentially trade agreements in the future, will impose punishments on countries that aren’t seen to have good enough climate policies. So whether or not Scott Morrison was on a zoom call or not isn't important in and of itself. What is important, though, is the sense that the rest of the world is shifting, because there's this enormous race on for the trillions of dollars in investment and millions of jobs that will flow from a whole lot of these transformations in different sectors of the economy and Australia is going to miss out on potentially.

CULLIVER: Since we're in Britain, I want to ask you as well about reporting in The Age that Prime Minister of the UK Boris Johnson is calling for Mathias Cormann, of course, ex federal MP, his bid to become the next head of the OECD for that to be blacklisted. The reporting says because of the former cabinet ministers denialist climate change record. That call is coming from the Labour Opposition of course Labour in the UK. Do you support that kind of call?
BUTLER: The Labor Party here has supported Mathias Cormann’s candidacy for the OECD position. We think well qualified Australians taking positions in these substantial international bodies is good for Australia. Mathias Cormann and I had a lot of debates about climate policy in Australia, but for us, that is a domestic matter. We can have our debates within an Australian political context and still support well-qualified Australians to take on those important jobs. A very different approach, I might say, than the Morrison Government took when Kevin Rudd was a potential candidate for the UN. I think that he should have been supported as a well-qualified Australian.
CULLIVER: Given the climate views of Mathias Cormann and certainly what UK Labour Party views of them, are you concerned about that kind of person leading the OECD given they are going to be Australia's representative?
BUTLER: Well, I think Mathias’ pronouncements about climate policy over the last several weeks, as he's been touring around on the Australian Government Air Force jet, has been quite different to the positions he took when he was stalking Malcolm Turnbull on two different occasions as leader of the Liberal Party. And I know the OECD has got very clear positions about climate policy and the way in which climate policy impacts investment and job creation. And so I think Mathias Cormann has, if you like, seen the light and recognises that the rest of the world has a very different view to these questions to the one he articulated here in Australia.