Remarks to the Australian British Chamber of Commerce

Delivered virtually

Thank you David for that warm introduction, and thank you for the invitation to speak to the Australian British Chamber of Commerce today.

Our two countries share a deep and abiding friendship – one based on common values and common goals, and a pragmatic, solutions-minded approach to meeting shared challenges. 

The announcement of a new security agreement between our two countries and the US is the latest demonstration of that important friendship.

And in around five weeks countries will gather in Glasgow for COP26, to confront another great challenge – the challenge of reducing emissions while continuing to grow our economies and jobs.

I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of the UK presidency team and in particular the incoming President, Alok Sharma, who I’ve met with on a number of occasions throughout this year and last.

Hosting a COP – and delivering practical outcomes – has never been easy. Those of you who, like me, have followed this debate for many years are painfully aware of that.

But Alok and his team have had also had to deal with a global pandemic limiting travel and the opportunity for in-person meetings.

The pandemic has also put new pressures on economies, public finances and short-term priorities.

For our part, Australia will be focussed on practical outcomes, as we always have been.

In the pre-COP meetings, Australia’s negotiating team and I have focussed on trying to support sensible compromises to achieve progress on the outstanding elements of the Paris Rule Book.

Amid all the public reporting and discussion around targets, the importance of actually implementing the Paris Agreement can get lost.

But the fact is the world won’t achieve net zero emissions without offsets, including cross border offsets.

That’s one of the outstanding portions of the Paris Rule Book.

Another is transparency.

Without transparency, there is no accountability.

And without accountability, there won’t be a translation of ambition into achievement.

One of the central tenets of the Paris Agreement is that all countries determine their own contribution to global efforts to reduce emissions.

But accountability must go hand in hand with that responsibility. 

All of the world’s largest economies should meet reasonable minimum reporting thresholds. 

Australia is a leader in that regard – we report for every sector, every gas, every quarter – and that transparency has driven progress.

It has held governments of either stripe accountable for the commitments they have made.

It played a role in ensuring Australia met and exceeded its Kyoto-era targets by 459 million tonnes, and we are on track to meet and exceed our 2030 Paris target.

And as our Prime Minister has said, if there is one thing you can count on Australia for, it’s that when we make a commitment, we will deliver on it.

So we will be working constructively to support the UK presidency and negotiations at the COP, because we want to see practical outcomes that will deliver real progress in the months and years ahead.

But above all others, the most meaningful outcomes that this COP could deliver is a step-up in global cooperation on clean technology research and development.

This will be an essential element of our long-term emissions reduction plan 

And in the lead up to COP26 – and beyond – our collective focus must be on driving down the costs of new and emerging technologies to parity with existing alternatives. On making practical solutions not just technically viable, but economically the most attractive option.

No country can do this alone. That is why Australia and the UK have established a new partnership on low emissions solutions. I will come back to this in a minute. 

Technology not taxes

But first I want to give you all some more detail on Australia’s approach. 

We want to achieve net zero as soon as possible and preferably by 2050. We are already on track to meet and beat our 2030 commitment – as we did with our Kyoto-era commitments.

Our focus is on getting new technologies to parity with existing approaches – or preferably even cheaper.

This is a practical approach with global application.

And it is the only way to maintain energy security and affordability and drive strong economic growth across our region, while reducing global emissions.

The reality is that despite three major international treaties and the best efforts of governments and communities, entrepreneurs and investors, global emissions are higher now than they were before the pandemic, and higher than at any point in our history.

We are focussed on supporting regional and global partners by driving low emissions technologies to cost parity with alternatives, and providing practical, cost-effective solutions to meet the energy demands of the future. 

This technology-focussed approach will mean we do not need to suppress and close energy-intensive sectors of our economy and the well paid, secure jobs they provide.

If that were to occur through regressive carbon taxes, it would be deliberately imposing costs on the industries and communities that are the most-exposed to global competition.

Instead, we are reducing emissions through the power of technology to transform our industries.

Climate change is a global problem in need of a solution that works across the world, particularly in developing countries. 

We need to make net zero practically achievable for all countries.

And we can do this by harnessing great innovators, engineers and enterprising organisations to bring low emissions solutions to the market at costs that are attractive to investors.

We know this model works because we have seen it firsthand with solar. 

Australia leads the world in household solar per person and has the most wind and solar per person of any country outside of Europe.

Growth in renewable energy has been so rapid that by 2030 it is forecast it will supply more than half of our electricity.

And that has been driven, in large part, by Australian households and businesses investing in renewables because it makes sense for them and their needs.

We need to repeat that success, globally, with hydrogen, carbon capture technologies, green steel and aluminium and soil carbon.

These are all priorities in Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap.

Removing the ‘green premium’ – the price difference between existing technologies and low or zero carbon alternatives – is the key to global adoption. 

Getting these technologies to cost parity will mean countries don’t have to choose between growth and decarbonisation. 

Through the Roadmap and $20 billion of Commonwealth investment, we aim to leverage at least $80 billion of total investment over the next decade.

Australia – UK partnership

Australia is also partnering with other technology leaders, like the United Kingdom, to accelerate the development of those priority technologies, and others - clean hydrogen, carbon capture and recycling, batteries, low or zero carbon steel and aluminium and soil carbon measurement. 

These technologies will be essential to slashing emissions around the world. 

Together, they will help reduce or even eliminate emissions from sectors responsible for 90 per cent of world’s emissions.

We are building on our energy partnerships with trading and strategic partners, obviously the UK, but also Japan Germany, Korea and Singapore.

This year alone we have committed more than $565 million to back these international partnerships and initiatives by co-funding research and demonstration projects. 

It is only natural that our two countries work together to translate ambition into practical action and achievement.

The Australia –UK partnership on low emissions solutions reflects our shared understanding that clean and low emissions technologies are essential to creating pathways to reduce emissions that also support economic growth and job creation, and to making net zero practically achievable.

I welcome the opportunity to work with the UK.  

Our cooperation on low emissions technology is important not only for accelerating the necessary research, development and investment but also for providing reliable and diversified supply chains for our energy future.

A focus on technology R&D is essential to reduce the cost and increase the speed of technological development. I’m pleased to see the private sector coming on board at a rapid rate.

This is one of the most exciting elements of our partnership with the UK, and one of the first we’re looking to take forward this year - a joint industry challenge.

I see rich potential for cooperation through this industry challenge. We are looking at:

  • reducing the delivered cost of clean hydrogen;
  • industrial electrification and reliable integration of renewable energy;
  • and direct air capture technologies, potentially coupled with carbon, capture and use technologies.

Finalising this first tangible initiative over the next few months is a priority for me.

Developing the practical solutions that will make net zero actually achievable will require an unprecedented mobilisation of capital, talent and grit to get there. 

I look forward to continued work with the United Kingdom as an essential partner in our effort to advance cost effective low emissions technology solutions which drive growth and prosperity, at the same time as bringing down emissions.

Just as we have met challenges before, I am confident that together Australia and the United Kingdom can develop the practical solutions that will enable us to reduce emissions while we maintain our energy security, affordability and reliability – all of which are so essential not just for developed countries like our own, but around the world.

Thank you