November 27, 2015

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well as Malcolm Turnbull works his way to Paris for those global climate talks via a pit stop CHOGM meeting in Malta, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will today announce Labor’s long awaited emissions targets. Labor says it will use the Climate Change Authority’s recommendations of a 45 per cent by 2030 as a basis for consultations. The Government’s commitment, already stated, is a 26-28% reduction by 2030. Labor will also commit to a policy of net zero emissions by 2050. It’s described as an ambitious plan and I’m joined now to discuss it by Labor’s Environment spokesperson Mark Butler. Mark Butler, welcome to the program.




MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: It is ambitious, almost twice the level set by the Government. Is it achievable? 


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Our starting point for consultations are in line with the expert advice of the Climate Change Authority, the Authority that was set up by the Parliament to provide exactly this advice, not just to the Parliament of Australia but to the Australian community. We want to go out over the next few months and by the end of March have had very deep discussions with business, unions and other stakeholders about the achievability of that target in light of the Paris conference which we believe is very likely to be a successful conference, and a range of other domestic factors like the impact on jobs, particular regions and households.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: You say you’ll use the 45 per cent figure as a basis for consultations. Does that mean it could end up being less?


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Well we think that’s the start for the discussion, that’s really what the Government should have done under the legislation in the parliament. The Government should have received that report and provided a formal response to it. Instead we had Tony Abbott’s targets which put Australia right at the back of the pack. Now after the change of leader I guess we waited to see whether Malcolm Turnbull would be true to his historical position on climate change and lift the Government’s level of ambition. But instead Malcolm Turnbull is flying to Paris now with Tony Abbott’s policies in his pocket with no change whatsoever. We feel as the alternative government of the country we’ve got an obligation to lift Australia’s position to make sure that Australia is at the head of the pack with countries like the US, Germany and United Kingdom, rather than at the back of the pack.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well it’s certainly ahead of the pack because it’s ahead of them isn’t it? It’s ahead of the US 41% target and Europe’s overall target of 34 per cent.


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: It’s lower than the UK’s target of 51 per cent, in keeping with Germany and Norway targets and it is slightly higher than the US target for 2030 but it’s very likely the US will lift its target. Canada, after the election of Justin Trudeau, has also indicated that it’s likely to lift their target. So we think we’ll be at the head of the pack, not ahead of the pack, but right at the head of the pack with countries to which we usually compare ourselves. That’s vastly preferable we think to being shut out of the investment and jobs boom that will flow from a shift to clean technology and renewable energy. It’s also we think consistent with our obligation, the commitment we’ve made to future generations, to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2 degrees celsius.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Government modelling suggests that this figure would trim 0.7 per cent of GDP that’s likely to be around $30 billion. Can we afford it?


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: The modelling from the former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin done for Tony Abbott would indicate that over the course of the 2020s decade, the economy under a 45% target would grow by 23 per cent instead of 23.4 per cent I think which would be the growth rate under the Abbott targets. There’s a very small impact on growth over ten years that you’ll see there. But there is also what Warwick McKibbin says a substantial positive impact on investment as you see a shift to clean technology and green jobs. But we also have to bear in mind, are we being true to our commitment to ensure that global warming does not exceed two degrees celsius and that’s the discussion we’re going to have over the next three months with business, unions and other stakeholders.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Will household energy costs have to increase to meet this goal?


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: We’ve already laid out a very ambitious goal on electricity to move to at least 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and we are also looking at the impact on the broader electricity sector. You’ll see the chief executives of AGL, Origin and others who are all talking about the crying need for a holistic plan to transition the electricity sector from a very heavy fossil fuel intensive sector we’ve had in the past to a cleaner system and that also is going to require some very deep consideration.


MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: To achieve this goal you’ll have to go to the next election with the new plan for an emissions trading scheme. That was described recently by the former prime minister as a carbon tax by another name. This is clearly going to set up another political fight over the cost of curbing emissions. As you know, as we all know, the public was pretty hostile to the last fight and certainly to the idea of a carbon tax. Is there any evidence the mood has changed out there?


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Well I think the evidence, polling released by the Lowy Institute only earlier this week, indicates that Australians want a level of ambition here. They recognise firstly our obligaton to the rest of the world, and perhaps more importantly to future generations, to ensure global warming does not exceed 2 degrees but they also recognise increasingly that there is a clean technology, renewable energy boom around the corner. Australia can either be a leader in that boom and benefit from the jobs and investment that will come from it, or it can be at the back of the pack which is where Tony Abbott and it would appear Malcolm Turnbull want Australia to be.