Topics: Paris climate agreement, Clean Energy Finance Corporation mandate
Greg Hunt, good morning.
Good morning Ali.
A good deal, or just the best deal that could be done in the circumstances?
No I do think it is a very good agreement.
I think it's arguably the most significant international environment agreement the world has had, and perhaps the only comparable one is the Montreal Protocol agreement on reducing ozone depleting gases.
It's extremely important that all of the countries of the world for the first time have committed to reducing emissions, or reducing emissions growth.
I think it's extremely important that more emphasis than ever has been given to the role of protecting the great forests and the mangrove systems as a means of absorbing and reducing the carbon in the atmosphere, as well as reducing the emissions that go up through industrial activity.
So an important agreement, and Australia has been deeply constructive during the whole process.
And yet not much of the agreement is legally binding, is it?
Yes, submitting a target is binding, regular reviews are binding – but the actual targets themselves are not.
Look that's entirely true. We had set out a position that in an ideal world we would have had legally binding targets.
But for more than a year now I know that I have said we recognise that the US couldn't support such a proposition, we recognise that China was not supporting such a proposition.
So that was never going to be part of the final agreement.
Although in our ideal world the binding targets, not just the agreement to have targets and the agreement to measure and verify, would have been part of it.
But all up there will be enormous moral weight and force by countries putting down their own targets and objectives and the responsibility to meet and beat those targets – as Australia is already doing for 2020, and is on track to do for 2030.
Of course, these five yearly reviews are designed for countries to be able to come up with better targets. How much pressure is there on Australia to do more?
Well the first thing is that Australia's target is the equal highest per capita reduction of any G20 country to 2030.
Secondly, we will drop from being 14th largest emitter down to the 25th largest emitter.
So that's a very positive move for Australia as the result of our target.
Minister can I just interrupt you here…
And the whole world has to come back in 2020…
Sorry, Minister, I just want to clarify the numbers…
…and consider their position.
I just want to clarify the numbers. That's why I'm interrupting you, because you were at that point of numbers.
The analysis I read said that if there's no change, Australia will be the highest emitter in the G20 on a per capita basis by 2030 together with Saudi Arabia.
Is that incorrect?
Look we start from being the – from being in a position where our emissions per capita are higher.
Our reduction is the largest, along with Brazil, of any G20 country in per capita terms.
And in absolute terms as a country we will drop from being the 14th largest emitter down to being the 25th.
So there's quite a dramatic change in the best and most positive sense in Australia.
But in the G20, we'll remain the higher emitter on a per capita basis?
Look I would want to check that carefully before making a final assessment.
What I do know, the largest per capita reduction along with Brazil in the G20, and in absolute terms dropping from being the 14th to the 25th largest emitter.
And significantly, it's not just the pledges, it's the fact that we met and beat our first round of targets to 2012, we're clearly now in spite of all of the prediction from many of the critics going to meet and beat our 2020 targets, and we're on track to meet and beat our 2030 targets.
And we played a critical role in achieving a 90 billion tonne reduction for the world between now and 2050 in the Montreal Protocol discussions only a month ago, in bringing the 2020 targets into law in the first week, and Julie Bishop chaired what's called the umbrella group, which is a group of similar nations including Canada and the United States, in week two – and that was also a very important part of the global deal.
And Julie Bishop also says that this deal provides flexibility for countries like Australia to do more, but she doesn't say what. What could be more?
Sure. Look, there are three things that we're doing immediately.
We are currently developing new national energy efficiency standards, new vehicle standards in line with the Euro 6 standards.
But is any of this going to charge our target of the 26-28 per cent reduction in gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030?
And the third thing we're going is phasing down HFCs, which will save about a little over 80 million tonnes between now and 2030.
All of that's to get to a very ambitious minus 26-28 per cent. Let's be clear…
So we can't do better?
No, no, I'm not saying that at all. Let's be clear, we've just gone from minus 5 per cent under the ALP to minus 26-28 per cent under the Coalition.
We'll meet and we'll beat that target.
Then in 2017 we'd already anticipated an agreement in very similar form to this, and built in a safety valve of a consideration of international units or international credits, which would allow us to consider, as we approach 2020, a new round of pledges.
So we've set an ambitious 2030 target, we've put in place the policies to meet that, our Emissions Reduction Fund auctions have been truly, deeply successful.
And then as we go into the 2020 period we are likely to have the option of international units, which would put us in a position to make a reconsideration.
So I can't [indistinct]…
So what sort of a reconsideration?
…as if I were in the role of…
Can you give us a guideline as to what we might be looking at? Because there does seem to be a lot of people who are saying we can do better.
Look, I've tried to think of this as if we were in – as if I were in this role until 2030 of what I would need.
We've got the international agreement that we think is the right international agreement, both for Australia but also for the world.
We've got the policies to get us to 2030.
And then we've got a reconsideration of international units in 2017, which will put us in the position to potentially do more if required.
So we've thought through all of the different phases over a 15 year period and the reality is I think what's most important we're actually delivering on our targets.
Our Emissions Reduction Fund auction has produced very good results and only during the Paris conference the safeguards mechanism which effectively provides a budget, a carbon budget for our 140 largest emitters, came into law.
And that's a flexible mechanism that's now in law which has passed into being quietly without a lot of comment and that gives us enormous scope going forward. So we couldn't be better placed.
You're listening to Greg Hunt the Environment Minister. I do wonder what you think about this agreement? 1300 222 774.
I've had a number of text messages, Greg Hunt – confused in essence.
Here is a country that says it's very committed to a cleaner future – cleaner energy future – and yet we are still approving new coal mines.
Well I think it's important to understand these are not federal projects and the federal law deals with a very clear set of circumstances.
It focuses simply on what are matters of national environmental significance under the law. It's like being a judge.
Policy discretion is at state level and what matters is that Australia and other countries are meeting their targets.
But sorry Minister that sort of removes yourself from the fact that Julie Bishop has been very keen to talk about the importance of coal to our future as well as the state premiers.
On the weekend the Queensland Premier called coal the backbone of her economy.
Well I obviously can't speak for the Queensland Labor Premier.
What I can say is this – what we are seeing is a progressive transition on two fronts.
Increasing volumes of renewables. We'll be doubling our large scale renewable energy capacity between 2015 and 2020, an enormous growth, and that has a consequent impact on the total volume of coal fired production.
But secondly the world is likely to see over the next 15 years dramatic reductions in the emissions per unit of energy created by traditional conventional fuels.
So all of those things lead to lower overall emissions.
And it's the lower overall emissions which is the subject of the Paris agreement and it's the only thing that the planet's infrastructure understands.
It's about total volumes of emissions.
Our emissions are reducing dramatically in per capita terms where we have very significant reduction targets.
And I think Australia should be very proud of the fact that we have played a pretty good role in these outcomes.
That's a point that you've made Greg Hunt – but let me ask you a very simple question.
Do you believe that Australia will continue to be reliant, as a backbone to the economy, reliant on coal for many years to come?
Look I think that what you'll see is a progressive transition.
I won't try to predict market outcomes and market decisions.
And there are some people of course who might pretend that suddenly we can lose all of our existing energy sources.
But what we're seeing in reality is a 19 per cent reduction, on the advice that I clearly have, in our total coal fired capacity between 2010 and 2022, a doubling of renewable, and then the global agreement also focuses on the role of natural systems such as rainforests and you would then bring in mangroves as well in protecting and enhancing their capacity to pull down CO2 out of the atmosphere.
I think that's been the most significant focus – well one of the most significant elements of the agreement – that it's reducing what goes up but it's bringing what comes down by enhancing the great natural carbon storehouses.
Just two quick questions Minister. How difficult is it when you've got people on your own side – and I'm thinking here Dennis Jensen and also Craig Kelly – describing the agreement as essentially meaningless?
People have different views. But my view, Julie Bishop's view, Malcolm Turnbull's view and the Government's view is crystal clear.
We are going to reduce emissions. We are going to meet our targets and we fought for and wanted what I regard as a genuine landmark global agreement with elements that Australia itself set out well in advance with the five year reviews.
So should those Liberal Party members keep their views to themselves?
Look I won't provide advice to my colleagues. What I will say is we're going to achieve our outcomes.
We've played a critical role in this agreement and we are well set for the future.
Now others will have different views on different policies.
But the fact is – is Australia reducing emissions? Our Emissions Reduction Fund auctions have been extraordinarily successful beyond any predictions or expectations.
We now have in law the safeguards mechanism and we have vehicle emission standards coming, we have energy efficiency productivity measures coming and we have a doubling of renewable energy over the next five years.
Alright, it's coming up to twelve minutes to nine. And Minister I know I have to let you go but I am curious about the change to the policy regarding the Clean Energy Finance Corporation at investing in wind energy…
That was wrong, now it's right. What's changed?
Well actually what's happened is that the final mandate for what's called the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is now identical to the agreement that we struck with the Senate in the passage of the Renewable Energy Target.
But in between Joe Hockey told them they could not invest in wind energy. Now they've been told they can invest in wind energy.
Well the answer is that we've looked at and listened to different sectors of industry.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has come in to my portfolio and we struck an agreement with the Senators, and both myself and the Prime Minister wanted to make sure that the final mandate reflected faithfully and absolutely the agreement with the Senators – which is a focus on emerging technology, on new technology such as large scale solar, storage, offshore wind, but without any specific prohibitions.
And I think it was the right policy outcome…
So Tony Abbott was wrong to hate wind farms?
Look I've always expressed my view that there are different forms of energy and I am a strong supporter of renewable energy and I've said that throughout.
And what we have here is something which reflects I think both a good balance and focus on emerging technology and reflects faithfully and absolutely – which I think is very important – the agreement with the Senate crossbench.
It's a good outcome for Australia in the context of a country that's meeting its targets and in the context of a global agreement which is truly, I think, a signature and landmark moment.
Greg Hunt, many thanks for talking to us.
Thanks Ali. Take care.