Topics: CSIRO, Great Barrier Reef, Paris Agreement
First we're joined by the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt.
Later tonight he'll hop on a plane to New York to sign the historic Paris climate agreement. He joins us now in Melbourne. Thanks for being there.
Now does the CSIRO's decision to sack 100 climate scientists risk breaching the commitment set out in the Paris agreement you're going to New York to sign?
Well no, of course not.
The first thing is that the fundamental element of the Paris agreement is about countries taking action to keep global temperatures well below two degrees and to aim for 1.5.
We have already announced that we will meet and beat the essential elements – which is our 2020 targets – and we're well on track to meet our 2030 targets.
And I will say this about the CSIRO – even though it's not in my portfolio and it is an independent agency.
We have stepped in and I've stepped in, I've met with the chief scientist, I've met with David Thodey, formerly of Telstra, now of the CSIRO as chair, we have sought to broker an outcome that will protect and enhance climate science in Australia.
And there's a little bit to go. The chief scientist, Alan Finkel, has done a tremendous job. I've been deeply engaged, my Department's been deeply engaged, the Bureau of Meteorology has been very involved.
And I expect that there will, in a short period of time, be a very satisfactory outcome which will lay the foundations for strong, clear climate science in perpetuity.
Okay, well it sounds like the mail that we've been getting, that the chief scientist has been working on a plan to shift some of those sacked climate scientists into the Bureau of Meteorology under your authority, is that going to happen, is that right?
Well, what I do think we'll get is an outcome which is about a long-term, stable, sustainable targeted climate science research program. For me it's something I'm passionate about.
Yeah but – we haven't got a lot of time and we've got a few things to go over so just very briefly, 40 to 50 climate scientists may be reemployed, those CSIRO sacked climate scientists reemployed at the Bureau of Meteorology, is that right?
Well I'll leave that for the chief scientist. You may not be right in terms of all the administrative side but there will be a resolution and I believe it will be a deep, strong, satisfactory resolution.
And for me, it's been a very important step that we've taken to be involved in this and to inject ourselves.
But briefly, a resolution that re-employs some of the sacked climate scientists from the CSIRO, is that right? Is that what you're aiming for?
What I'm aiming for is a good climate science outcome. I'm not in a position, frankly, Tony, to make comments on other portfolios and work being done by the chief scientist beyond what I've said which is we'll get an outcome.
Okay, are you going to allocate money to employ a number of climate scientists recently sacked by the CSIRO?
I will leave that for the CSIRO. You are the one who said we had issues to deal with about the great Paris climate agreement. If you're ready, I'm ready.
Well, you're about to go to New York and as you know the New York Times, the main newspaper of that city, put this story on its front page saying the sackings of these climate scientists caused dismay among climate scientists all around the world. They're extremely disturbed that…
(indistinct) Tony Jones, we will have a solution.
Okay. Let me go quickly to something else that you've bought into today because it appears that you've convened an emergency conference call on the bleaching threat to the Great Barrier Reef.
So is this going to be another one of those interviews where we agree that we would talk about something and you won't address it? Because I'm going to the Paris conference tonight.
No, this is about a press release which you just put out tonight. Did you not put out a press relief this evening saying that you're about to, on your way to Paris, have an emergency conference call with the Queensland Minister, which will be at the airport?
We are – well it's a telephone call and so in the age of modern telecommunications it doesn't really matter where people do it from.
The Queensland Minister approached the ABC today, didn't approach the Commonwealth, and said that something needed to be done.
Well unfortunately they haven't taken any action but we have.
We have invested in water quality, $4.8 million recently, we've invested in the local action in terms of gully erosion and we're taking global action in terms of the 90 billion tonnes of emissions that are being reduced through the Montreal Protocol and then the great global agreement.
And I have summonsed him to a telephone conference this evening, other ministers have been invited. At this stage I believe we have at least six jurisdictions.
And we will ask Queensland what their plans are because we will be investing in water quality, we will be investing in crown of thorns reduction, we are investing in monitoring and most significantly, we are taking global action and signing the Paris agreement, which will be in New York in two days' time.
But you can see – Greg Hunt I'm sorry to interrupt, but you can see why we'd obviously ask you about that when you're about to go and have a conference call, evidently with a whole range of environmental ministers about existential threat to the Great Barrier Reef partly due to climate change.
Well there's global and local action and we're doing both.
The global, of course, is not just the agreement but the fulfilment of the agreement and we're one of those countries that is on track to meet and beat our target.
Something that's incredibly important, was never expected or predicted in many of the interviews that you and I have had over the years.
And we're doing it. We're achieving it.
Can you then go there with the promise to increase your target? I mean the Labor Party's promised a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030. If you're doing so well can you increase your target?
Well we will meet and beat our 2020 target.
Our minus 26-28 per cent for 2030 is one of the highest emissions reductions targets on a per capita basis in the world.
And so that is a 52 per cent reduction on per capita emissions, one of the highest in the world.
Let's meet and achieve those because that would be an outstanding global contribution and it would help not just our reef but every reef.
But importantly, at the local level, the critical thing that each of us can do is invest in water quality.
What can actually help with the Barrier Reef when there is an event such as this – water quality.
So we are setting out the things that we're doing. I would encourage Queensland to make an announcement on water quality investment and we are happy to work with them. But the way to do it is to actually engage.
And that is why the World Heritage Committee said last year that Australia was the global role model for management of World Heritage properties because of the long-term plan that we've set out for the reef.
Greg Hunt, good luck in New York. We thank you for being here tonight. We'll speak to you hopefully when you get back from there.
Yeah, look when we – once we sign in New York we will then move immediately to begin the process of ratifying the Kyoto agreement and also the Paris agreement, so those two things are in train.
And the Paris agreement we hope to have ratified as soon as possible and to be one of the countries to have achieved it this year.
Thank you so much for joining us and explaining that.