Topics: Paris climate summit, Green Climate Fund, financing coal
Environment Minister Greg Hunt took part and he joins me now from Paris. Minister, thanks for your time.
And good morning from our end Patricia – and good evening Australia.
Yes, yes you're in Paris. I wish I was in Paris, although I'm enjoying my time.
What have you taken away from these ministerial meetings?
Look, a fundamental sense of optimism.
These negotiations are always hard but the general tone and tenor was of countries trying to achieve an agreement.
The talks started off extremely well, because in Dubai we've just seen a very successful round of the Montreal Protocol negotiations – that's about ozone protection – but Australia led the discussions which lead to an extraordinary figure, a 90 billion tonne down payment – or saving of CO2 – in advance of this conference with the phase out of a particular gas called HFCs.
So the whole conference started off with this extraordinary preliminary success.
And in the end, Australia and Canada were one of two countries that were given widespread physical applause on the floor, something that I'm told is very unusual.
I understand other countries are encouraged by the promise of Malcolm Turnbull's leadership.
But are they still pushing for Australia to increase its emissions target or to reconsider the Direct Action policy which critics say won't achieve the existing target?
Has that been raised with you?
Look, I spoke with many ministers and none of them raised either our targets or our policy other than to ask about it, given the success.
We've had one deeply successful auction.
I am very hopeful that the next auction, results of which will be known very shortly, will be another success.
And people are extremely interested because we can say categorically now that we will meet and beat our 2020 target, and we are on track to meet and beat our 2030 target.
So Australia is being seen as somebody that is doing what it says, which is being constructive internationally.
And we put on the table here a solution to one of the thorny issues about what's called ambition – the degree of effort internationally – with the idea of five year reviews.
So not only did we have the Montreal Protocol success where Australia literally was one of two out of 197 countries that led the talks, here we were being very constructive.
And because our targets are being met, because we've now set an ambitious 2030 target – challenging but ambitious – we're in a very strong situation.
Indeed countries such as the Marshall Islands and India and many others welcomed Australia's proposal on the five years.
Under the Paris Agreement countries will review their emissions targets every five years.
What is the potential for Australia to increase its target if the science in 2020 or 2025 or 2030 says we're still heading for a rise in global temperatures beyond two degrees?
Sure, so let me try to be as realistic as possible with the audience.
The Paris outcome, as a meeting, is likely to get us somewhere towards reducing the rise of global temperatures from four to five degrees down to 2.7.
But the Paris process will get us to the two degree outcome – and that's the five year review that we talked about there.
So we've made our commitment now. Nations are not trying to renegotiate other nations’ targets. There was a process over the last year.
And then we are in a position, precisely because of the success of what we've done, to come back in five years and to be constructive with a new round.
What do I think is the history to come? I think we will get an agreement.
Anevitably there will be negotiations and walks outs and blow ups in the last 48 hours.
But I am very confident that right at the end, there'll be an agreement. There seems to be a DNA to these negotiations.
And then the world will come back in five years and we'll be equally constructive then. I'm extremely confident.
And what does it mean for parents and grandparents and for grandchildren?
It means that these talks will see an outcome which will have a profound century long benefit.
Australia is now joint chair of the Green Climate Fund.
There were reports the Government was considering an increase in the $200 million pledged by the Abbott Government to that Fund – then yesterday Julie Bishop told the party room it wouldn't happen.
Was that on the table? Was that decision – that announcement of that decision not to go ahead – just to keep the Conservatives happy?
Look, I obviously wasn't there yesterday but I haven't been involved in any talks about a change in our contribution. People are happy [indistinct].
Having trouble hearing Greg Hunt. Greg Hunt, are you there?
I'm being joined by the Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, having trouble with the line there. You're listening to RN Drive. I'm Patricia Karvelas.
We were speaking to Greg Hunt the Environment Minister. He's in Paris, that's why he said good morning to you even though it's good evening here – he also said good evening.
0418 226 576 is our number. You're listening to the Minister articulate the Australian case. What do you make of it?
Minister, I understand I've got you back now, Australia is joint chair of the Green Climate Fund and we've seen big increases in financial commitments from countries like the UK, Germany and France.
You are going to face a lot of pressure to put more money on the table in Paris next month, aren't you?
Well, as I was saying, one of the things which has really been front and centre in the international discussions is how do you mobilise the flow of private capital.
Because at the end of the day, what people want is investment not gifts.
And that really has been the discussion with countries that are developing, least developed, I'm sure they would appreciate aid.
But for the most part, they're very realistic. And they say is what we really want is genuine investment, long term partners.
And so we're very focused on helping to mobilise those flows of international investment to reduce barriers.
And I'll let Julie Bishop talk about the direct foreign aid side but…
But may it increase at some point? Is that on the table?
…look, I just wouldn't speculate on somebody else's portfolio. It's entirely reasonable for you to ask, but I think the right and proper thing for me is to leave that to Julie Bishop.
But I have to say this – how was Australia perceived? Australia was perceived very positively, very…
Is that because we changed Prime Minister? If I can get you to directly comment on that?
Is that any result in the change of Prime Minister? Given there were critics of the targets you announced under the prime ministership of Tony Abbott.
There were critics of that 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels that you're pushing for.
Look, I'll frame it in a positive way and that is that Malcolm Turnbull is well known, amazingly well known, to many people who are in these negotiations.
He is, for example, a former Environment Minister.
So in this group, he's known and he's understood and his focus on the cause and then practical action is deeply appreciated.
The other thing is now that we've had the results of our Emissions Reduction Fund, now that we've been able to confirm that we will meet and beat our 2020 targets when perhaps some others may not – then that puts Australia in very good standing.
We're not in the promise and ignore category – we're in the [indistinct]…
Those lines to Paris, they're dodgy. It's got us losing Greg Hunt once again.
Unfortunate really – I had one very crucial question to ask him. I think I've got him back so I'm going to go into that question.
Greg Hunt, I just – let's fit in this last question. We recently heard calls in Australia for a moratorium on coal.
And now two of our closest partners, the US and Japan, want OECD countries to stop financing all coal plants other than those classed as ‘ultra super critical’.
Australia is resisting that. But aren't we just becoming more isolated from the global community?
Why are we resisting this move from the US and Japan?
Well, the first thing is we don't finance any overseas coal plants. So it's a discussion that largely pertains to the actions of others.
And so we aren't one of those countries that finances coal plants – the previous government did, domestically.
They gave $5.5 billion in cash and kind to brown coal generators in the Latrobe Valley. We stopped that.
Sure. But if – I know we don't…
…[indistinct] the world, we don't support or finance overseas and we've stopped Labor's $5.5 billion flow to brown coal generators in Australia.
…but the reason you're concerned, I understand, is that if other countries stopped funding it will hurt our export market. South Korea is the only other country with us on this.
Why has Australia taken this stand – particularly one that really stands very differently to our very close partners?
Well look, I respectful don't accept the characterisation. There's a proposal that's been put out. There are constructive discussions going on.
I won't pre-empt where they land because Andrew Robb's very involved in that.
But essentially, we're not financing overseas, we've stopped financing in Australia that was there under the Labor Party – as I say, $5.5 billion, believe it or not, to brown coal generators.
And now we're involved in constructive discussions through the OECD process.
Okay. But Fairfax has quoted documents that they've seen – I haven't seen them myself – that Australia has opposed a US-Japan plan that would, in effect, limit public financing of coal-generated power by OECD countries to only the cleanest coal plants available, mostly those classed as ‘ultra super critical’ generators. That's in documents they've seen.
What is inaccurate about that?
I just respectfully wouldn't accept their categorisation – or characterisation.
We're involved in constructive talks. I imagine it's likely that there will be a resolution.
And people will put one idea on the table. You can be concerned as to whether or not there's a perverse, unintended outcome.
And so we're just working through that in a positive way and…
So you're telling – you're arguing…
…and I would imagine in the end there'll be a resolution
So you're arguing in these discussions that I'm not privy to – that you're concerned about a perverse, unintended consequence of that proposal?
…that's the major Australian concern, yes.
Alright, and just one quickly – because I'm being sneaky.
Shadow Immigration Minister, Richard Marles, says Australia should consider taking in migrants from our Pacific neighbours, as they feel the impacts of climate change first and – what do you think of that idea – does it have merit?
Look, we have a very strong humanitarian program, and humanitarian programs are determined on the needs of the day – I'll leave that for the Immigration Minister.
Alright, a pleasure to talk to you. I imagine you want to get home at some stage. Thank you Minister.
Yeah I've got two beautiful little kids and so I'm desperate to get home and see them. Alright, take care.