Topics: Paris climate agreement
Minister welcome again to Breakfast.
It's a pleasure.
The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says that Australia now has the flexibility to do more to reduce carbon emissions.
Will Australia do more now?
Well we have in fact just upped our target to minus 26 to minus 28 per cent for 2030.
In global terms that will see us drop from being the 14th largest emitter to the 25th.
That's a very significant change in our global standing for the better.
It will see us have the equal largest drop in per capita terms of any of the G20 countries, so it's a very ambitious target.
But we also know that now we'll come back in 2020 and the nations will be expected to reconsider their targets.
And we've set in place a mechanism which will allow us to do that, in particular to look at the question of international units.
And I expect that we probably will take on board international units and that will give us the flexibility as we head in to 2020 to re-pledge if needed.
And we argued for a new 2020 round of pledging and a 2025 round.
So our international architecture is aligned with the domestic policy.
And we're one of the few countries that is consistently meeting and beating our target.
So just to be clear it's your view that Australia's target of 26 to 28 per cent reduction will go up after 2020?
Look I won't predict. What I will say is that…
But essentially you're committed to that aren't you under this agreement?
What the agreement says is that nations have to review their targets and either re-commit as is, they can't go backwards, or to take further ambition.
Now the way we designed our minus 26-28 per cent was to put in place a challenging but ambitious target.
We set out all of the means by which we'd actually meet that minus 26-28 per cent.
Since we put that in place it's already been shown that we'll meet our earlier 2020 target and we put in place a safety valve which is consideration of international units in 2017.
So that safety valve for further ambition in 2020 is already there.
So we've designed policy out to 2030 and we've designed with the expectation that the world would have precisely this agreement which I welcome – a fundamentally important agreement – and with the ability to have an additional element which is the international units.
I know you're saying that you don't want to speculate on what it will be, but implicit in this outcome is that Australia will have to do more than that even though it's a non-binding scenario – it will have to go beyond 26 to 28 per cent when you review what the commitment is – won't it?
Well the whole world has said that they take their Paris pledges and they'll all be reviewed.
Every country will go through a review process in 2020.
Now whether other countries increase or maintain I can't say.
We have designed our current system so as we will meet and beat our 2020 target, meet and beat our 2030 target, and be in a position in 2020 to reconsider whether or not we go further.
Now we have our mechanism to do that…
Don't you have to do it before 2020. You have to look at it in 2017 don't you?
No there are two different things here.
There is the domestic assessment of the progress of our policies – and of course the Emissions Reduction Fund is overachieving compared with any expectations that pundits had, so we've achieved almost 93 million tonnes of emissions reduction from just the first two auctions.
The safeguards mechanism came into law during the Paris Conference and was much commented upon to me by people from around the world.
And we also have coming on board new vehicle emissions standards and energy efficiency standards.
But then on top of that, the 2017 domestic review of progress – and then the 2020 process of re-pledging, or re-committing our international targets.
And we argued for that international system, and we designed a domestic system predicting this sort of outcome.
I don't want to belabour the point, but this global target of two per cent, or aspirational target of 1.5 per cent cannot be met unless Australia and all of the other countries do more than their current policy settings stipulate.
Well the very nature of the Paris agreement – and you're right on this – was that the combined pledges of different countries added up to a 2.7 degree outcome or thereabouts.
And we argued for a process – so not just a Paris meeting but a Paris process – which would then have five yearly reviews, so as the world gets to and meets and beats the two degree target.
So that's challenge for all of the nations of the world. We're up for it.
Okay, I want to play you some audio of a member of your own party, Dennis Jensen from Western Australia – this is his response to the deal.
I think it's a lot of hype about potentially nothing. Basically countries set their own targets and there's no enforcing strategy.
[End of excerpt]
So, is that true?
Look I respectfully take a different view. I think this is arguably the most important international environment agreement the world has ever had.
I think the only comparable agreement would be the Montreal Protocol for reducing ozone depleting gases, which has been tremendously successful.
This is important, and the reason I say it's important is because for the first time, all nations pledged to reduce their emissions, or to reduce the rate of growth in their emissions.
There will be very significant pressure on countries that are on track to fail with their targets.
We are fortunate because we are on track to meet and beat our targets.
I think this is a genuinely important international moment.
Can you explain to – or respond to this. Depending on who you listen to or read, some of those at the conference say this marks the end of the fossil fuel industry, a fossil fuel dependent planet.
If you listen to the minerals sector here in Australia they say this is great news for the Australian coal industry. It cannot be both.
Which is it?
Look I think what you see is there's a progressive transition towards renewable energy, and a reduction in either the volume or the CO2 impact on fossil fuels over the course of the coming decades.
We're seeing that transition in Australia. But the other thing that came out…
But – we're running out of time so I just need to push you on this though. We understand the issue with the intensity of Australia's coal and its impact on carbon emissions.
But the point is, to reach this target, the world will have to use less fossil fuels, including coal.
Well I think that's undoubtedly true in the coming decades, that there will be an increase in renewables and a decrease in the overall impact of fossil fuels.
But that can occur in two ways – either in terms of volume or in terms of efficiency.
And there's likely to be dramatic improvements in the efficiency, and this was the whole point of the innovation agenda which was advanced in Paris.
And then the other element which has really come in here is a much greater emphasis on the natural systems of the carbon sinks that come from the great rainforests of the world, and protecting and expanding the mangrove and related coastal systems, both of which absorb enormous quantities of CO2.
Do I think at the end of the day this is an important agreement? Yes.
Do I think we will get there? With a lot of hard work, yes.
Minister we'll have to leave it there. You've got the rounds to do, no doubt, and a very busy day, week, Christmas, year ahead.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt, thank you.