Address to the IGCC 2022 Climate Change Investment and Finance Summit

Sydney NSW

I acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

And I thank the Investor Group on Climate Change for hosting what is my first speech as Minister for Climate Change and Energy. 

The decision to join you first was deliberate. 

Because the Albanese Government wants to unleash private investment. 

We want to give you the framework, the certainty and the partnership you need. 

No more silly sound grabs about “can-do capitalism” with no actual policy – we are living through the ramifications of that now. 

No more ad hoc interventions, but one policy, and a sensible, well thought-out approach.

For too long, Australians had been led to believe that climate change posed a choice:

The environment or the economy. 

The cities or the regions. 

Progressive values or conservative ones. 

In fact, climate change threatens us all – and good climate action can benefit us all.

Because the truth is that good energy policy is key to good economic policy.

Groups like the IGCC were vital to persuading Australians of that fact at the last election. 

You helped to make the case that reducing emissions can also drive investment and jobs, and put downwards pressure on power prices.

You didn’t do that because you were red or green or teal. 

You did it because you understand economics. 

You did it because, after more than a decade of the climate wars, you knew there was a better way. 

And now we get the chance to craft that way together. 
And we have to be all in.

A federal government that gets it is the essential starting point – but it’s not enough.

We need to work with states and territories, with communities, with business, and with you.

That’s particularly so because 2030 is now not far away – just 91 months. 

In Opposition, I said that the world’s climate emergency was Australia’s jobs opportunity.

In Government, I’ll work with you to make it so.

And so my message to the investment community – here at home, and particularly around our region – is simple:

Australia is under new management – and Australia is open for business in the new global economy.

The IGCC has estimated that there is potential for $131 billion in new technology and jobs in Australia by 2030.

Most of that investment will be private.

You have the capital and the expertise to help drive the transition in Australia and around the world.

So while public investment is important – and I’ll come to that – the KPI for governments is actually to provide a stable policy environment in which you can operate. 

You know more than anyone that the Commonwealth has not met that KPI in recent years.

That changes now. 

And today I want to discuss the three elements of the policy certainty that our Government brings. 

The first is renewed climate ambition.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister and I formally communicated Australia’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC.

Our 43 per cent by 2030 target is a huge step up in Australia’s ambition. It’s half as much again as the previous target. 

That will see us re-join key trading partners in their 2030 ambitions, like South Korea at 40 per cent, Canada at 40 to 45 per cent, and Japan at 46 per cent.

And to give further certainty, we will seek to legislate the 2030 target, as well as net zero by 2050. 

That’s good for our economy as well as the climate.

That’s why the Prime Minister and I were joined yesterday by the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. 

By the biggest energy generators, the biggest industrial users and the Australian Conservation Foundation. 

Those groups and others like the National Farmers Federation know that Australia’s new 2030 target is ambitious, but also achievable. 

And that’s the second element of the certainty that our Government provides:

A policy framework to actually achieve our ambitions. 

Targets are easier set than met.

But in this case, 43 per cent is the modelled impact of the Government’s Powering Australia plan.

That plan takes a tailored approach to decarbonisation in each sector. 

In electricity, our investment to rewire the aging grid and grow the renewable share of the National Electricity Market to 82 per cent by 2030. 

In industry, our plan to reduce Safeguard Mechanism baselines predictably over time. 

In transport, our commitments to develop Australia’s first National EV Strategy, cut taxes on EVs, and build a truly national network of charging and hydrogen refuelling stations. 

And of course, our commitment to greater transparency and accountability on climate-related risks.
We heard loud and clear from the IGCC and others that inadequate assessment of risks and opportunities is a huge barrier to investment.

And so, as part of Powering Australia, we committed to establish an enhanced reporting framework that aligns with international standards.

That will make disclosures usable, credible and comparable.

And it will drive investment and create more jobs, especially in the regions.

That’s an example of the importance of a national policy framework. 

But the third element of the policy certainty our Government brings is a commitment to work cooperatively on this national task and opportunity.

If we’re honest, the Commonwealth has some catching up to do. 

Because in the absence of national leadership, everyone else has gotten on with the job.

State and local governments, investors and industry, workers and communities – 

All of you have moved ahead. 

And as the new Government restores national leadership, we also need to harness the work that others have done and will do. 

To work with you –never against you. 

While that will be a general principle for our approach, it’s particularly important right now. 

As we speak, the National Electricity Market faces a situation that is unprecedented in its 24 year history. 

Its causes are complex, and to some extent contested.

But one thing is very clear: a decade of energy policy chaos has contributed to the mess.

And it’s equally clear that better policy could have avoided, or at least mitigated, what we now face.

Australia has the world’s best solar resource, and some of the world’s best wind.

We have a smart, skilled energy workforce, and the space to generate and store renewable electricity. 

A country like Australia should be a renewable energy superpower, running our homes and businesses on cheaper and cleaner power, and exporting it to the world. 

But instead, we’re a decade behind on the energy transformation.

Hostage to aging coal-fired power plants.

To flooded coal mines.

To global gas prices. 

A decade of denial and delay have left us dangerously exposed to these challenges.

And so the Government is working with the states and territories, with the Energy Market Operator, and with the Energy Regulator.

These problems were a decade in the making. We won’t fix them quickly or easily. 

But we will fix them together. 

And I make this point: the current situation is a reason to redouble, not revisit, our commitment to the energy transition. 

That’s why I was pleased that all Energy Ministers – Labor, Liberal and Green – agreed to develop Australia’s first integrated energy plan at our meeting last week.

We have a world-class Integrated System Plan for the transformation of the electricity grid.

But now we need to build on it to encompass all elements of the energy transition, like hydrogen.  

But of course, not everyone is committed to the transition, or to policy certainty.

Indeed, since the election, the Opposition has proposed a so-called “discussion” of nuclear energy.  

So let’s have the discussion here today. 

Nuclear is the most expensive and slowest form of new energy. 

Its adoption in Australia would push up power prices, and crowd out cheaper and cleaner technologies.

Firmed renewables are quicker to build and cheaper to operate.

Those who say otherwise are either dangerously ignorant, or simply seeking to perpetuate the climate wars.

End. Of. Discussion.

I raise that because there are still risks to sensible climate and energy policy in Australia. 

The Government is seeking to end the climate wars. 

But we can’t do that alone. 

We need groups like the IGCC to continue making the case to all Australians that good climate policy is good for investment and good for jobs. 

More than that, as we get on with unleashing investment, we will show that the world’s climate emergency is indeed Australia’s jobs opportunity.

Australia has wasted a decade.

There is no more time to waste – not a minute of it.

I can’t wait. I know you can’t either.