Topics: Paris climate summit
Greg Hunt joins us now. Mr Hunt, good afternoon.
And good afternoon Tom.
Now has the climate change summit or conference, has it actually begun yet?
Yes it has. So yesterday there were just over 150 world leaders who were here.
It's apparently the largest gathering of world leaders since the 1948 Universal Declaration meeting.
And it was an extraordinary indication of just the engagement of everybody – from the Chinese, to the US President, to the Indian, to the British, to the UK – and in amongst it all the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, made a very powerful speech.
And you may be surprised to know as well that two councillors from the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council are spending ratepayers' money to be there too. Have you met them?
I did bump into them yesterday, yes.
Oh you did.
I know this is a side issue, but really, should councils be spending ratepayers' money attending summits like this?
Look I think they need to justify very carefully, anybody needs to justify, very carefully how you spend ratepayers' or taxpayers' money.
Alright, now what are you hoping to achieve at this, because I mean the cynical side of me thinks this will just be a giant talkfest, producing more hot air than what it clears away, and then we'll get to the end of a fortnight, nothing concrete will be achieved.
What are you hoping to see achieved at this conference?
Look for me there are really two big things.
First, I do want to see and I actually believe that the agreement which eluded the world at Copenhagen, and which frankly turned into a very poor outcome in 2009, is reached here.
On balance, I think that there will be a global agreement where the developed and developing, the large and the small, all agree to reduce emissions – and to do so on a particular path, which is to keep temperature change below two degrees.
The second thing is, I'm frankly very focused on Australia's hard core national interests.
And I want to make sure that the work that we're doing in soil carbons, in forest management, in mangrove rehabilitation is recognised around the world.
And only a couple weeks ago on something which I think virtually everybody will agree, the ozone protection, Australia was recognised as a world leader and became one of only two of 197 countries to chair deeply successful talks aimed at ozone protection.
And that is going very well, and it's actually provided a model for what's happening here.
And that just helps Australia's standing and national interest, no question.
I understand that there is a push against subsidies for fossil fuels, and indeed Australia's own diesel fuel rebate for farmers and miners is under the gun.
Are you going to maybe back down on that rebate?
No. We are sticking with that rebate.
It's not a subsidy, we have a very clear view on that.
And the reason why is because the road tax effectively, which is embedded in our petrol and diesel taxes, is focused on road users.
This is about making sure that people who are off road are not paying for what happens on road.
And our position has been crystal clear on that – that the rebate is a practical measure to protect farmers from a tax for activity on the land which doesn't relate to road use.
And no, that's not changing, and we are absolutely firm on that.
Okay. But if I had a business for example that, I don't know, rented people trail bikes to ride around a track.
I mean if I did that, and let's just to make it complicated say they were diesel powered trail bikes, I mean I do have to pay the excise on the diesel.
But for some reason farmers and miners do not. Now, I've never understood that distinction.
Look I think the decision was made, in the mists of time I have to say, to ensure that those industries which are fundamentally connected to the land and not engaged in the road use are not penalised for road use.
On particular sort of very fine detail anomalies like yours, I think I’d respectfully refer to the Transport Minister.
But the general principle has been a very clear one – that those who use the road pay for the road, those who do not use the road don't pay for the road.
Okay. Now, no climate change summit will achieve anything unless the biggest economies in the world are there and are prepared to agree to something.
A hundred per cent correct.
A hundred per cent correct.
So the world's biggest economies are the United States, China, India, and I believe Russia is actually fourth.
Are they honestly likely to agree to something that will limit their production of carbon emissions?
Look all of the signs are positive at the moment.
I know that obviously the United States and China have reached preliminary agreements in the lead up to the conference – that's possibly been the most important sign.
We know that India is very engaged. They will argue their case hard, they argued their case hard at the ozone protection, or Montreal Protocol discussions a few weeks ago – which Australia led – but we got them there in the end.
I know yesterday Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, who is very, very impressive, met at length with President Obama.
Obviously I'm not privy to the details at this stage. But I think that was a cornerstone of the negotiations for here.
Russia is apparently very committed, but we'll judge them on their actions.
And then the EU, which collectively represents an enormous part of the world economy, is completely focused.
So there are very strong signs that it won't just be an agreement in name, but it will actually lead to practical action from the biggest countries.
How much will you agree to cut Australia's emissions? Will it be 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 40 per cent? How far will you go?
So it's minus 5 per cent from 2000 to 2020, and we will meet and beat those targets contrary to a lot of the doubters and critics in Australia, that's now beyond doubt and established.
And then minus 26-28 per cent out to 2030. 2030 is really the focus of the new agreement.
And we have a very clear firm line on those targets – they are achievable, but it is a challenge to do it.
We've set out a path of doing it – and there are some very, again, practical things, such as the vehicle emission standards that will phase in over the course of the coming decade.
And then energy efficiency – there's a major energy efficiency discussion on this Friday which Josh Frydenberg, our fellow Victorian and national Energy Minister, is leading.
And that will also help energy efficiency in the homes over the coming decades.
We'll leave it there. I know you got up very early to talk to us, I believe it's only 6:15 in the morning there.
Greg Hunt, Federal Environment Minister, you'll be busy over the next two weeks. Thanks for talking with us.
Thanks a lot Tom.