MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: This weekend has highlighted just how isolated Scott Morrison increasingly is globally on the issue of climate change. Over the weekend the great trading nations have reaffirmed they are committed to net zero emissions by the middle of the century. The United States, China, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, all of Europe, are coalescing around that mid-century commitment. That’s a commitment that is obviously critically important in the fight against climate change. But it is also a commitment that will also shape investment decisions and job creation over the coming three decades.
Net zero emissions by 2050 is supported by every state and territory government, Labor and Liberal alike. It is supported by the Business Council, the Australian Industry Group, the Farmers Federation and our biggest companies - our biggest mining company, our biggest bank, our biggest airline and many, many more. But it continues to be resisted by Scott Morrison.
Scott Morrison’s own official data, which were released this week showed that we are not on track to meet our inadequate 2030 emissions reduction target. Indeed those data showed that, on Scott Morrison’s policy trajectory, it would take 146 years to meet net zero emissions.
This is a commitment Scott Morrison must make. His pig-headed refusal not to commit to net zero emissions by 2050 will continue to see Australia isolated globally and it will come at a huge cost to jobs, and investment opportunities being lost.
JOURNALIST: Should he then declare a climate state of emergency as recommended by Guteras?
BUTLER: The central policy should be net zero emissions by 2050. That will shape investment, it will shape job creation that will transform our economy into a clean energy economy, alongside, as I said, those great trading nations over the rest of the world.
Australians understand that climate change is a serious threat to our safety and our prosperity into the future. We just finished the hottest November on record, the hottest spring on record, in a year that started with the largest bushfire emergency in our history. Australians understand the urgency of climate change and they also understand that transforming our economy into a clean energy economy in the fight against climate change will bring enormous opportunities in jobs creation and investment.
JOURNALIST: The summit is asking nations to make long-term and short-term goals. What is Labor’s 2030 carbon cutting target?
BUTLER: As we have said a number of times, our position on medium-term targets will be made clear well before the next election. Medium-term targets must be framed against the background of a mid-century target to get to net zero emissions. Medium-term targets must align with that mid-century commitment and must be informed by the best available science and economic advice. What we see with Scott Morrison’s commitment at the moment is it will take 146 years to get to net zero emissions. That is simply hopeless.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Scott Morrison will eventually commit to that target after the summit next year?
BUTLER: He should simply do it now. The great trading nations of the world are already there. They are rolling out their plans over this weekend to transform their economies. There is a race on around the world. It is a race to harness the biggest share of the trillions of dollars of investment and millions of new jobs. It is a race that Australia, with world leading renewable energy sources, should be leading. Instead, because this Prime Minister won’t make the commitment that is essential to winning that race, we are behind and at the back of the pack, instead of the front.
JOURNALIST: How does China get a seat at this summit when it is the world's biggest carbon emitter and it is still building coal-fired power stations?
BUTLER: China is the biggest country by population and it is absolutely critical that China is serious about the fight against climate change. It would be very hard, or almost impossible, for the world to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement if particularly the big countries like China, the US, Europe and many others don’t get on board. But Australia must get on board as well - we are one of the 15 largest producers of greenhouse gas emitters in the world even though we don’t rate in the top 50 by way of population. So yes China must take this challenge seriously. We have seen China commit to net zero emissions by the middle of the century, we have seen the Chinese President over the weekend rollout very substantial investment plans into renewable energy.
The Australian Government must take our domestic responsibility seriously. That requires us to make a net zero emissions by 2050 commitment to harness the jobs and investment opportunities available.
BUTLER: Yes, but there is a transformation in the global economy and Australia should be harnessing the jobs and investment opportunities. Instead, we are increasingly isolated and out of step with those great trading nations that are coalescing about this net zero emissions commitment by 2050.
We know, for example, this question is increasingly being raised in trade negotiations between Australia and Europe, Australia and the UK. President-Elect Joe Biden has made it clear that climate policy will be central to trade policy in the United States as well. So there are very significant economic reasons why this is in Australia’s interest to make that net zero emissions commitment. Leaving aside, obviously, the importance of the fight against dangerous climate change.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Australia will soon have no markets for its coal and natural gas because the world will stop importing fossil fuels?
BUTLER: That’s a decision that will be made by other countries, by the big markets that we have been sending our exports to for many decades – like Japan, China, South Korea, increasingly India and others. They are not decisions that will be taken in Canberra - they are decisions taken in capital cities of those export markets.
JOURNALIST: How embarrassing is it that Australia didn’t get a speaking spot at this summit?
BUTLER: It is not surprising given the rest of the world has made it clear for years now that it views Australia as a laggard on climate change under this Liberal/National Government. They did under Tony Abbott, they did under Malcolm Turnbull and they still do under Scott Morrison.
Last week the annual Climate Change Performance Index, an index that rates the climate change performance of the sixty largest emitters in the world, was released, and it showed that the only country that rated worse than Australia on climate change policy was Donald Trump’s United States. Australia has been regarded for sometime as lagging on climate change and the failure of the Prime Minister to make that commitment to net zero emissions by the middle of the century is the starkest example of that.