Topics: Office of Climate Change and Renewables Innovation, renewable energy, Emissions Reduction Fund, Maurice Newman, Australia’s 2030 emissions target
Greg Hunt is the Environment Minister. Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.
Good morning, Fran.
Under the Government of Tony Abbott, there were moves to try to abolish the CEFC and ARENA. That was blocked in the Senate.
Now that the new Prime Minister has moved these bodies into your Department, is their future secure?
Well there's been no change in the long-term position. However we realise that the Senate has a very clear view.
And we want to – and I specifically, and the new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also specifically wants to – make the best use of these organisations to ensure that they're coordinated with the Emissions Reduction Fund and the Renewable Energy Target, that we get the best value for taxpayers.
We have people such as Sarah Henderson who have been arguing that we should be drawing on and using them as much as we can, and I agree. I think we can do better and we could get better results from them.
So no change in policy, I understand that. But does that mean the Government's not going to be making any kind of renewed efforts to scrap these bodies in the foreseeable future? You're going to work with them instead?
Well, the goal absolutely between now and the election is to work with them to make sure that where we have taxpayers' money which is available and being used, we get projects such as the one we're announcing today – it's $3.5 million in Weipa.
This is funding which is going to go to solar. It'll help ensure the replacement of diesel. And a second stage, if the first stage goes well, will focus on battery storage.
So the innovation that we want – the confidence that we want – in the renewable sector is something that comes from bringing the Renewable Energy Target together with these bodies the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA – which were bequeathed to us in a way that was largely disconnected from the overall approach to a renewable technology and renewable investment.
Energy and confidence is key, and this operating of this new office within your Department – it says technology will underpin the reductions in global emissions that are required and it will work with the private sector to identify opportunities for and barriers to technology uptake.
Now, one of the barriers that the sector – the renewable energy sector – has said is there is the lack of long-term commitment post-2020 to the Renewable Energy Target and the lack of confidence expressed regularly by the former Prime Minister and the former Treasurer about, for instance, wind technology and renewable technology.
Are you trying to instil confidence in this sector by being a Government that indicates it's – it believes in renewable – it's behind renewable technology?
Well, both the Prime Minister and myself and the new Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, are deliberately and consciously saying to the sector – there is a major role for innovation and you should have confidence.
The Renewable Energy Target is rock solid. The Emissions Reduction Fund is rock-solid. And our international targets are rock-solid.
What has changed is a greater emphasis on confidence and on innovation in the renewable sector.
So they should feel that there is a very supportive environment, which means that we have a big task to double our large-scale renewables and our small-scale – or what's often known as PV and solar hot water – renewables between now and 2020.
And indeed the target runs through and operates through until 2030 and that's not understood as widely as perhaps it might be.
So, confidence, innovation and the ability to work with the sector.
And what about that instruction that was talked about, there'd been a letter sent to the CEFC that they don't invest in wind, for instance – and the Prime Minister, as we know, was a critic of wind turbines, he thought they were ugly and perhaps unsafe.
Is the Government still insisting the CEFC not invest in wind technology or is that instruction gone?
The focus with the CEFC is based on the discussions and in the letter that I had tabled with the Senate – which was that they should focus on emerging technologies.
That's the operating guideline. And what that means is it's not a blanket ban on technologies.
But what it would do is to have focus on things such as solar, geothermal – and if there are emerging components in relation to wind, such as new turbines or offshore wind, that might be an appropriate way.
So I think we've found a very sensible, balanced middle ground going forward.
It's thirteen to eight. Our guest is the Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt.
Minister in recent days you've talked about the fact that the Australian Government will be prepared to – and may need to – review the post-2020 targets in the years ahead as it becomes clear where the world is heading.
Overnight, a group called Climate Interactive says the commitments made so far in the lead-up to Paris will deliver a 3.5 degree Celsius increase, which is way above the 2 degrees that Australia and the world is shooting for.
Australia's target of 26-28 per cent, are you open to strengthening it if it becomes clear that's what's required?
Well the first thing is the target we take to Paris of minus 26-28 per cent is the highest per capita reduction in the entire G20.
The second is that it's a rock solid target that we are taking to Paris, and Paris I think shouldn't be seen of as a single meeting…
That's the point isn't it, I mean it's meant to be looking at what countries are promising now, and then there's meant to be constant oversight and monitoring past it.
What I think is likely to come out of it is what you might call a process. So the countries of the world might come back in 2020, in 2025, and 2030.
So the target we're taking now is rock solid.
We've designed a system that is flexible so as we can participate whether it's 2020 or 2025. But this is an ambitious, difficult, challenging target.
Now I believe that in the way that we've met and beaten our first Kyoto target, and we will meet and beat our second target to 2020, we will meet and beat our third target to 2030.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. That's a rock solid foundation.
But it's the flexibility – it's the flexibility that people worry about with Direct Action – that it's not scalable. I mean, how do we pay for it if we need to cut deeper…
There are no free approaches. What we have here is a $2.5 billion first round, and then a $200 million a year allocation out to 2030.
We also have the safeguard system, we have vehicle emissions, and we have the work which we're discussing right now in terms of new technology – battery storage, wave, geothermal, tidal power – these are all significant actions going forward.
And I think what we'll find is that Australia will be one of the few countries to meet and beat not just the first and second Kyoto targets, but also our third.
But for now our targets are rock solid – because many countries pledge, few countries achieve with the degree of success that Australia does.
And just on that – there are no free approaches – it's fair to say isn't it that if we do move as the rest of the world is, and we need to, to decarbonising our economy, it will cost, and it will cost all of us won't it? It will affect, for instance, electricity prices.
Well there are ways to do it which help and hurt. And obviously…
Yes, but nothing is free, right?
Correct, I've always said that. And it's a $2.55 billion program, which compares with the…
$6 billion that Labor allocated – you know, they gave – believe it or not – $5.5 billion to brown coal generators.
So they tax them on the one hand, they then paid them in cash and in permits on the other hand.
It was arguably the biggest giveaway to any sector in Australia – and the carbon tax was giving $5.5 billion to brown coal generators. As somebody said to me, go figure.
Minister, we're almost out of time, but the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has decided not to reappoint Maurice Newman as Chairman of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council.
He is a well-known and outspoken denier of climate change. Do you think that he had undue influence on climate policy as the Prime Minister's top business advisor?
No I don't. And I say that as the person who probably worked most closely with Tony Abbott on climate issues over the last five years.
And at no stage was the issue of climate science, in terms of belief or disbelief, in that entire time ever raised with me.
The policy that I set out to achieve, we didn't just achieve but is now working.
And indeed the World Bank has adopted a model remarkably similar – remarkably similar – to the Australian model through its Pilot Auction Facility…
Alright. And Minister just very briefly can I ask you, we've only got a minute – but the largest parcel of privately owned in the world is being sold, the Kidman Estate – it stretches across three States.
Just very briefly, do you have the power or desire to repair the country that's been denuded of vegetation over more than a century?
Well interestingly the Emissions Reduction Fund has enormous capacity to work if owners bid in emissions reduction on landscape change – that could be reforestation, avoid deforestation, soil carbon improvement, revegetation. So that's a matter for the owners.
But we have the mechanism to capture carbon in vegetation. Green carbon is a huge part of the global solution.
Greg Hunt, thank you very much for joining us again on Breakfast.
Thanks a lot Fran.