April 01, 2019

HAMISH MACDONALD: This looks suspiciously like things we have talked about and failed to implement in the past. Is this a cap and trade scheme that you're talking about now?

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY MINISTER: What we've done is accept the unanimous calls from business that their preference was to work with the Government's existing mechanism, rather than starting again designing a brand new mechanism with Green Papers and White Papers and drawn-out battles and getting on with the job to improve the mechanism introduced under Malcolm Turnbull and operating under Scott Morrison, to make sure that it drives down pollution in the industrial sector, that’s what we’ve accepted. We think that also we can improve it by giving business access to international carbon markets, which was inexplicably cut off by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison. And also improve carbon farming arrangements so that business can put the pollution in the most efficient and effective way possible.

MACDONALD: You're going to force the big polluters to cap their emissions and increase the number of big polluters who will have to do that. You'll give them the option of trading in circumstances where they exceed the targets. This is a cap and trade scheme? That's a fair description?

BUTLER: No, I don't think it is. What we're doing is extending the safeguards mechanism that was introduced by this Government, that is operating right now, that puts obligations on a small number of industrial polluters right now to limit their pollution. So we’ve accepted business's calls to work with the Government's existing mechanism, and I think Hamish, the important thing, like our policy around the National Energy Guarantee, is that that provides a foundation for possible bipartisanship in the future. What business needs is agreement between the major parties, and if the Coalition in the future finally gets over its ideological opposition to action on climate change, this provides a mechanism, a basis for bipartisan agreement, finally in Australia on climate change policy.

MACDONALD: And I think we'd all agree that that would be lovely if that ever came to be the case. Can with he be clear about where the baseline will rest? Will it be the case that if you form government, that over time, the baseline may, in fact, be reduced?

BUTLER: Well, it will be reduced because we need our industrial sector to limit and reduce their pollution over the course of the decade if we're going to reach the target that we've been advised is the minimum position necessary to keep global warming below two degrees.

MACDONALD: And you think that you can do that without the enormous backlash from the big polluters that we've seen in the past, when similar attempts have been made?

BUTLER: Well, we think that we can work with business. We've been working with them over the last 18 months to make sure that those arrangements are put in place to allow them to cut pollution in the most efficient way possible; opening up access to international markets; making sure that emissions intensive exposed industries have arrangements that take account of the need for competitiveness. We're also putting in place a $300 million strategic industries fund to support industries like steel and aluminium and cement and many others, to chart a path to a low carbon future, as is happening all around the world as countries across the world come to grips with the challenge of looking after our children and our grandchildren on the impacts of climate change.

MACDONALD: Labor now says, as I understand it, that you will not use the credits that we've accrued from exceeding our Kyoto emissions targets. Why is that?

BUTLER: We're interested in real cuts in emissions, not dodgy accounting tricks; not fiddling the books as Scott Morrison would have us do.

MACDONALD: But those are real emissions reductions that we've made. Why do they get wiped away?

BUTLER: The first point to make is that we're not going to meet the Kyoto commitment in 2020 - certainly not going to beat it. The bipartisan commitment was to reduce pollution by 14 per cent by 2020. But because pollution has been rising under this Government, the Government's own data released several weeks ago says we'll only have cut pollution by 11 per cent. So let's dispel the myth that somehow we're beating the Kyoto commitment. Ironically, what Scott Morrison is trying to do is take credit for the fact that in the early part of this decade, under Labor, we were overperforming on emissions cuts because of policies that Scott Morrison opposed tooth and nail. So we're not going to have Australia join a club that only currently has Ukraine as a member. We're taking a position consistent with UK, New Zealand, Germany, Sweden and other countries, to which we usually compare ourselves. As I said, we need real cuts in emissions - not dodgy accounting tricks.

MACDONALD: You're also making this announcement today about electric cars. By 2030, you want 50 per cent of all new cars on Australian roads to be electric. That's going to require an enormous amount of infrastructure to go alongside it, won't it? How are you going to deliver on that score?

BUTLER: Well, we must because across the world, the car industry is shifting very, very quickly to electric vehicle technology and that's because the rest of the world is putting in place policies to encourage that. Australia is now the country with the lowest uptake of electric vehicles in the OECD and we're the only country without fuel efficiency standards. This means that pollution is rising on the roads, and also, motorists are paying more at the bowser than they should be. So it's time to get back in line with what the rest of the world is doing on electric vehicles. You're right, we're going to need-

MACDONALD: Is Australia that different to many other countries doing well on this front, simply because of our geography? It's very hard to deliver with the density of population that Australia has, and so much of the infrastructure that's needed for electric vehicles to run?

BUTLER: Well, countries across the world are grappling with this, and we said that we want to bring the fuel efficiency standards in line with the United States, which is a country that has a transport system most like our own, rather than for example, fleet standards that operate in a very different environment in Europe. So we've taken account of the fact that Australia has some particular circumstances in transport, but the point is that the global car industry is shifting. There are enormous benefits to motorists for this, particularly fuel savings at the bowser every single week when they fill up. But under this Government, we've slipped way behind the rest of the world. You’re right that we're going to need infrastructure in place to take account of the global shift to electric vehicles. We'll have more to say about this during the course of today.

MACDONALD: Do you have an electric car?

BUTLER: No, I don't. Very few people do have electric cars in Australia. We buy electric cars at a rate of one tenth of the average around the world, and that needs to change.

MACDONALD: So I guess you'll be committing to buying one then?

BUTLER: Thank you, Hamish.

MACDONALD: Mark Butler, thank you for your time.