Topics: Paris climate summit
Now to my chat with Greg Hunt the Environment Minister. I spoke to him from Paris earlier this morning.
Look there is a very positive mood.
Over 150 world leaders – perhaps the greatest gathering ever of world leaders, and certainly since 1948.
And there is a common sense of purpose.
And we've heard that from the United States, we've heard it from China, we've heard it from India and of course from the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who committed Australia – to widespread applause and acclamation – to ratifying the second Kyoto Protocol period.
So that was a very important and significant announcement from Australia adding weight and momentum to the talks.
Now why is that important? Is it not just symbolism from the Government in confirming the ratification?
Well it is an important symbol. It says that we take these issues seriously.
Of course there has been some significant history over the last few years on this question.
And for Australia to make a clear and categorical statement which has been through the Cabinet and the party room with support I think is important.
But secondly it also allows us to be ambitious. It means that we can use the achievements of the past to put us in a position to make greater achievements in the future.
It's important, it's in our national interest, but it's also our contribution to the global interest.
But is Australia also at the same time digging in with the United States in seeking that this agreement remove the historical responsibility for carbon dioxide emissions of developed countries?
This has been a red line for India. It looks Australia along with the United States is taking a hard line in having that historical responsibility removed from any agreement.
Look I have seen that report and it's not actually very accurate. Our position is that we want all countries to play their part.
Obviously the developed countries have a greater responsibility. But without China, without India, without Brazil – which I have to say has made some tremendous commitments in terms of rainforest preservation – without Indonesia, it would be impossible to actually make the changes to the global climate.
Ao actually our position is very simple – we want all countries to play a part but according to their abilities to do so.
In terms of China, how would you describe the turnaround from six years ago – from being the major obstacle to now possibly being one of the key facilitators if an agreement is secured within the next fortnight?
I don't think there is any question that China has made a major turnaround in the last half decade.
Issues of air quality, issues of concern about climate change, mean that they recognise they have to make changes in their own cities with regards to the quality and source of their power but also with regards to their emissions.
The Chinese are a constructive force here in Paris.
Can I ask you about another report around this morning that Australia has dumped plans to sign an agreement to remove fossil fuel subsidies?
This came amid concern from the backbench, from the Minerals Council, and also the resource agricultural sector more generally.
What do you say to the suggestion that you have had – essentially been forced to make that decision under pressure from those cohorts?
No with respect that's again not correct.
Our position has been – and the Prime Minister previously at the G20 agreement as part of the communiqué supported the long standing Australian view – that we should phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
That doesn't include the diesel fuel rebate. It's not a fossil fuel subsidy. It's simply recognising that things which occur on farm shouldn't be subject to a tax which is primarily directed at road users.
And so that's a long standing position which hasn't changed.
There was one thing in one agreement – and there are multiple agreements on the table here – that was a term which didn't fit with Australia's policy position.
There was some question whether or not that would be dropped from the New Zealand document, – in the end it wasn't.
And so there were multiple initiatives here – we have participated in the Indian solar initiative, we've been engaged in the French soil carbon initiative, we're leading a global rainforest recovery initiative and we have indeed been centrally involved in the US Mission Innovation statement.
But above all else the biggest prize here on the floor of the plenary conference is the signing of, and the ratification of, Kyoto and that has won enormous widespread applause.
But in terms of the fossil fuel subsidy reform communiqué, we won't be signing that as it stands?
No not as it stands. And the reason is simple – there is a reference to a particular report which makes conditions that simply wouldn't fit with the Australian economy.
And that's actually not to do with fossil fuels, but it's to do with effectively demanding carbon taxes, and that's not our policy, that's not our direction.
I understand even the Opposition expressed doubt or reservation about exactly that same report today.
So, our long standing position of phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies as has been held by Australia remains the same.
This particular clause in one particular report didn't really fit with Australia.
But the big things – the agreement, Kyoto, Mission Innovation, the solar initiative, and what we're doing with forests, being involved in a major forest agreement as well as the clean energy or Mission Innovation statement – we've done or are doing all of those.
And the Kyoto Protocol commitment really did bring in an enormous round of global response today.
Well just in terms of the response generally on the international stage for our – for the new Prime Minister, what's the reception been like given in Australia, of course, while the policy hasn't changed so much certainly the tone has under Mr Turnbull, a long time advocate for mitigating climate – the effects of climate change?
Look he's had a tremendous response.
And obviously since he became Prime Minister Australia's been elected as co-chair of the global Green Climate Fund, we co-chaired the incredibly successful Montreal Protocol discussions – which are likely to save the world 90 billion tonnes of emissions – only a couple of weeks ago.
And here you could just see on stage with other world leaders that they gravitated towards him, that he was the natural centre of many conversations with leaders from Europe, from Latin America, from Asia.
It's very impressive, and I've got to say the feedback that I've had has been that Australians have somebody of whom they should be tremendously proud.
And Minister Hunt my final question to you, on a busy day for you, but on the Green Climate Fund that you referred to – the Canadians under Prime Minister Trudeau have announced more than $2.5 billion to that fund, the Japanese $10 billion – are we dragging the chain with our contribution?
No not at all. We are responsible and generous internationally.
The Prime Minister announced that over the next five years our total climate change funding will be about a billion dollars. And what does that mean?
That means that much of it is done in direct country to country support, because we see that that really delivers in terms of outcomes where we can implement, manage, control, and ensure that there are practical responses.
So, balanced and generous, but appropriate for Australia.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt in Paris, appreciate your time, thank you.
Thanks a lot Kieran.