Topics: Paris Climate Change Agreement, Great Barrier Reef
Australia is one of more than 170 countries signing the agreement in the largest one day signing of
an international deal in UN history. Environment Minister Greg Hunt joins us now from New York.
Thank you for joining us Minister.
A historic day indeed in terms of the number of nations showing support for this Agreement.
We're already hearing from nations such as China that they will move to ratify as early as
September this year. What is the process for Australia going ahead?
So we have signed today, we've also begun immediately the process of ratifying – and for people at
home, that's where you take an intent to be bound and you turn it into a legally binding commitment
– and the commitment we've made is to seek to do that this year.
And so that's had a tremendous response from China and the United States and from other
countries, particularly coupled with the news that we've just released our emissions reduction
projections and we will meet and beat our 2020 targets now by 78 million tonnes.
In other words, we're not just doing our job, we're beating our targets and that's received incredible
international support here.
But inevitably you do face criticism that Australia is not going far enough, particularly I guess when
we look at what's happening to the climate at this point.
For instance, of course, last month, March was the hottest in history.
What do you say to those critics that Australia is not doing enough, given that the country is the
13th largest greenhouse emitter and the highest per capita in the OECD?
Well, what you find here is tremendous support for what Australia is doing.
Leading the world on the Montreal Protocol, helping produce 90 billion tonnes of emissions
Leading the world on a Global Rainforest Recovery Agreement and an international Blue Carbon or
So in those three areas we're right at the global forefront.
And then at home, the fact that we're ratifying the Kyoto Protocol this year, we're ratifying the Paris
Agreement this year – the United States won't be ratifying Kyoto, Europe may well not be ratifying
the Paris agreement this year – so we will have done both.
And then the fact that we're beating our targets by 78 million tonnes.
Australia's standing in this environment – irrespective of what somebody from the Greens will say,
reflexively and in any event – is strong.
And the feedback here, and the reception here has been really outstanding. Australians should be
very proud of what we're doing internationally.
We do hear from the Climate Change Authority which says if we're to meet a two degree emissions
budget target, that in fact you'd need to cut 40 to 60 per cent reduction to the year 2030.
Well I think you'll find that of the developed world, our 2030 targets – minus 26 to minus 28 – are
the almost highest per capita reduction in the world.
It's a 52 per cent reduction in emissions per capita. In the developed world that's extraordinary.
And right across the world countries are doing their best. For us, these are some of the highest
targets anywhere in the world, and certainly on a per capita basis we're right at the top.
There will be other countries here and there with some differences. But the other thing is that when
we make a commitment, we meet that commitment.
We beat our Kyoto I targets, we're now clearly well and truly on track to meet and beat our Kyoto II
And our Paris 2030 targets are strong and ambitious and they've been welcomed and hailed.
And the fact that we've only today released these latest emissions reduction figures has meant that
Australia has been received exceptionally well.
And if I can take us back to the Paris Agreement four months ago.
One of the major sticking points in coming to an agreement was the push from poorer nations to
have more support in protecting them from the impacts of climate change.
What commitments have Australia made to those countries that will be worst affected, particularly
our neighbours in the Pacific?
Sure. I think that is an extremely important question, because these small island states didn't cause
So there are two big things. One is a commitment of $200 million a year for practical climate action
in the region – so using our aid budget for emissions reduction, but also for helping nations adapt to
climate change. And that's a billion dollar commitment over five years.
The second thing is, we want to help mobilise or move the funds that are in the existing
international Green Climate Fund out of the account and into practical rainforest recovery,
mangrove rehabilitation – actions that Australia's literally leading the world on.
So we've built a coalition of nations around the forests and around the mangrove protection here.
So that again from the developing world and from the Pacific states has been very positively
And Greg Hunt you've been talking about Australia's emissions reduction measures, including the
release of a new vehicle emissions measures, as well as energy productivity plan. Can you give us
more detail on what that may mean?
Sure. So we already have in place the Emissions Reduction Fund and what's called the Safeguard
Mechanism, which places a cap on 50 per cent of our emissions, and the Renewable Energy Target.
Now we're moving to look at vehicle emissions standards. That's been announced and that process
is underway – can we have better vehicle emissions standards to make our vehicles more efficient
but our cities and the air in them cleaner.
Similarly with energy efficiency the question of whether or not there are new standards that we can
look at with regards to lighting, energy efficiency, heating, heat loss in commercial buildings and to
work with the industry and the sectors on both fronts.
But already they signs are extremely good that we'll probably make savings of 90 million tonnes
over the next decade in vehicle emissions and probably close to 160 million tonnes of savings of
So real practical things, but with positive differences in terms of reduced bills and cleaner air.
Greg Hunt, just before you leave, I did want to ask you about the problem on the Great Barrier Reef
that's presenting itself with coral bleaching – some 93 per cent of the reef by estimates is affected.
I understand that the Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles has written to you, urging you
to convene an urgent meeting of Australian Environment Ministers to address this problem. Is that
likely to go ahead?
Well we've actually already done it.
Within a couple of hours of the request we arranged a major national teleconference and I'll be
visiting the reef again within the next week.
Sorry, he was actually talking about visiting the reef, address- having a meeting up there.
Well, I will be visiting the reef again – as part of an ongoing continuous series of visits – within the
We've already had a major national teleconference.
My announcement today of $11 million for practical water quality is a direct next step.
And we'll be visiting and there's more to be announced because we're just completing the details of
additional emergency work.
So we've now announced $35 million, plus $11 million today for water quality.
I would hope that Queensland will make some practical statements.
Talk is good, but practical action to improve water quality and reduce crown-of-thorns is what we're
doing, and I think that's significantly more important.
So we'll be there within the next week, and we're having weekly hook ups – up until the time that
the Government is in caretaker – with all of the nation's environment ministers.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt joining us there in New York. Thank you very much for speaking
to us this morning.
A pleasure. Cheers.