Topics: Paris climate summit
Minister, thanks for your time.
Good morning from here, and good evening to everybody in Australia.
So all those people listening to us right across Australia, and we've got as you know now a huge audience in rural Australia.
What are you hoping to actually achieve at this talkfest?
Look the first thing is to represent Australia's interests, as well as to be part of an international outcome.
What's good for Australia? One is to ensure that China, and India, and the United States are doing their bit to reduce emissions.
Two is to make sure that we get the best outcome in terms of managing our soils, we're leading programs for mangrove rehabilitation, things which will improve fish populations for the Australian coastline – so really practical things, and getting international support for that.
And what we're also doing is working to ensure that Australia is in good standing.
I think it's always advantageous if your country is respected, and I've got to say the response has been very, very positive to Australia.
Where do you sit on this argument over how we're measuring emissions?
This group of small island states I understand are not happy.
The definition of what our levels are, where they are, and how we measure them would confuse anybody, even someone as closely aligned to it, I suspect, as yourself.
Are we dodging our responsibility by not properly measuring things?
No. We're actually sticking to the position that was established long ago, and that basically says that forests suck in CO2 and they should be allowed to be counted.
And that's really what the planet knows.
What does the planet know? It knows the net volume of emissions up and emissions down, and forests are a critical part of that.
That's actually been a long accepted non-controversial part.
I actually think it's pretty much one advisor from one country.
We've met with the senior delegates from that country at ministerial levels, and I am very confident that we'll get a resolution in Australia's favour.
And we unashamedly stand up for the national interest, but it’s also common sense.
Over the past few decades forests are estimated to have absorbed about 30 per cent of the emissions that come from industry and electricity.
So it would be wrong technically not to count them, and it would be counterproductive not to provide an incentive to acknowledge the work of forests.
Taxpayers listening to us see that we are going to commit a billion dollars over five years to island states in our region.
Those same taxpayers are told by your Government and your Treasurer Scott Morrison in particular, that things are grim in the budget, that we've got to save money.
I know this comes out of money already committed to the foreign aid budget.
But aren't Australians within their rights to say well let's look after ourselves before we start doling out money to island states that really are not our responsibility?
Look, it's a fair question to ask and I respect and understand the position that some may have on that.
It's a lot of money.
The answer though is in your question itself, and that is it's from within the existing aid budget.
And that aid budget has been brought back quite significantly over the last few years.
Labor made promises that were unfunded, which were massive, and which they could never have met.
We've made the aid budget more realistic.
So we're living within the existing aid budget and making sure that it's practical things that other countries want.
For example, I met with the PNG Forests Minister yesterday who was actually looking at protecting and enhancing PNG rainforest resources.
Now that's good biodiversity, it's great if PNG is protecting the forest, and if we're assisting in a project such as that I think most Australians would say – look protecting the great forests of the Asia Pacific is something that we think is worthwhile, and if that's within our existing aid budget, not in addition to, then I think that's a fair balance.
So where do you stand on this argument from countries like India in particular, and China, that they're developing economies, they're way behind the developed world when it comes to emissions, we've been pumping this stuff out since the industrial revolution, so they should be able to continue to do it for a set period of years into the future.
Surely that goes against the whole argument that you're all there for, which is to clean up the planet?
Look I think that's right, that at the end of the day everybody has to be involved.
The absolute critical point for the conference, and for Australia, is that everybody has to be part of this.
Now when you project forward by 2030 half of all historic emissions – so half of all of the emissions that have come from electricity, human activity, vehicles – will have come from the developing world.
So the developing world is very quickly becoming a major source of emissions.
And that's not a criticism, that's bringing people out of poverty, which we've always, always wanted. But it means that everybody has to be part of it.
And I am actually very confident that China and India will be part of the final solution.
They'll argue their case hard in the same way that we argue the Australian case hard.
But in the end everybody is better off by making sure that there is an agreement.
Because if there's no agreement then we'll all head off and people will fight for the next few years.
And it didn't end that well in Copenhagen in 2009. I think it will end well in Paris in 2015.
Yeah I want to get a comparison to Copenhagen.
Can I just ask you though, and there's a lot of misinformation around the whole debate on climate change as you know, but what do you think when you hear the stats on the number of coal fired power stations that China continues to construct, and then when you hear them say they're serious about lowering their emissions but they're building – depending on who you listen to – three, eight, five, coal fired power stations a month, a week, whatever the figure is – don't you sit there and look at that and feel a bit cynical about it?
The big figures in relation to China – they're moving from about 6 billion tonnes of emissions in 2005 to something close to 15 billion tons of emissions in 2030.
There are some people who try to airbrush this fact.
It's good that China is trying to level off its emissions, that it's capping and trying to then reduce them.
But it's the indisputable fact that the largest source of growth in emissions anywhere in the world is in China.
I've said this on many occasions, not as a criticism, because they are bringing people out of poverty, but as a check to the claim by some in Australia – you know some on the left will pretend that China's emissions are actually reducing. They're not – they're the biggest source of growth in emissions.
So we have to temper our understanding of what's happening in the world with the reality that that's where the big growth in emissions are to be found.
In Australia we're meeting and beating our targets.
You would never believe that or know that if you listened to some of the critics, but I think they have now been categorically debunked.
We put out the figures last week, the official Australian Government figures that we're going to meet and beat our 2020 targets, we'll do that with a good margin – and then the independent Climate Change Authority has come out and confirmed it this week.
And the world has basically said whilst we've been over here – hey Australia's doing a good job, you're one of the guys, one of the countries that's actually meeting their targets, others have made pledges and won't meet their targets.
Well I'll let you get back to it. I know the conference activities are about to start, and I look forward to catching up to you when you get back to see whether it does achieve more than Copenhagen did.
Thank you so much, cheers Steve.