Interview with Fran Kelly, ABC Radio National Breakfast
12 November 2020
Subject: Australia's emissions reduction targets
FRAN KELLY: Angus Taylor is the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Fran.
FRAN KELLY: More than 70 countries have now committed to net zero by 2050, or 2060 in China’s case. It includes the two biggest emitters, China and the US. It includes all the members of the European Union and the G7 and most of the G20, but not Australia. How much longer can we shun the rest of the world like this and line up with outliers like Saudi Arabia?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, Fran, let’s be clear about this. We’re committed to the Paris Agreement, and the Paris Agreement requires net zero. And we’re part of that commitment, there’s no question about that. Now, we want to see that happen as soon as possible. We want to focus on technology not taxes as a pathway to get there. But you talk about that list of countries – in fact, only three countries have Nationally Determined Contributions with that target in the Paris Agreement. And the focus of the Paris Agreement, let’s be clear-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] Hang on, but are you saying these other 70 countries are not, that their pledge to net zero 2050 isn’t real? Is that what you’re saying?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I’m saying that what really counts in the Paris Agreement is the Nationally Determined Contributions. Now, those Nationally Determined Contributions are focused on 2030. We have a 2030 target, a strong 2030 target. We’re confident we will meet and beat it. I note that the Labor Party doesn't have a 2030 target, which means they can't be party to the Paris Agreement with those policies. That's our focus. We are very conscious of the fact that beyond 2030 we need to keep bringing down emissions, and that's why we're taking an approach focussed on technology, not taxes. We welcome the United States to the Paris Agreement. We think it's important that they’re party to it. And that is a great thing.
FRAN KELLY: Okay. But I notice you’re not talking about net zero emissions there by 2050, and I wonder why not. The UN climate panel says net zero by 2050 is necessary to have a 66 per cent chance of keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees. If that's what it takes to save our planet, why aren't we signing up to it? Why aren’t we saying yes?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We want to see it happen as soon as possible. And the important issue-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] Well, are you saying it could happen before 2050?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as soon as possible. And the path-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] Well, why not set the target then?
ANGUS TAYLOR: The pathway here is what counts. It’s how are we going to do it? Because the fact of the matter here, Fran, is many countries
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] But you can have a pathway and a goal.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Let me-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] We were just talking Brad Banducci from Woolworths who said you need to set your goal first. You set your target and then you work out your pathway.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm sure Brad Banducci is thinking very hard about how to do it. And that's exactly what we do here in Australia, which is focus on how we’re going to bring down emissions. Look, our track record is astounding. If you compare us with other countries, you look at New Zealand or Canada, they haven't brought down emissions since the 2005 baseline year. We are down over 14 per cent. That will continue to come down and we are confident of that. Our achievements on the Kyoto Protocol, we beat that, June 30 this year came to an end, the Kyoto era, 430 million tonnes. Almost a year’s worth of emissions.
FRAN KELLY: So, why are we one of the few countries not prepared to back ourselves and lock in this target, the net zero by 2050? Why not?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as I said, the Paris Agreement requires net zero and we want it to happen as soon as possible. But the pathway is what counts, a technology pathway-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] As soon-
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, Fran, at the end of the day, the practical debate about what we do here is a choice. It's a choice between do we go with technologies where we can bring down the costs of lower emitting energy and other sources of emissions? You know, whether it’s land management or in agriculture. Do we use technology to bring down those emissions and not impose costs on the economy, or do we impose taxes? That is the choice. And we're saying very clearly-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] That has nothing to do with a target.
ANGUS TAYLOR: It absolutely does.
FRAN KELLY: I mean, I’ve said before on this programme, I think there’s most agreement that technology is likely to be, you know, is going to help us get there. There's no doubt about that. But is the fact that our government, as against all these other governments I’ve just ran through, won't put a pledge on, is that for politics? Is that because you've got Craig Kelly and others in your party room saying, don't do this, it'll just cause you trouble in the party room?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We don't commit to targets without a pathway to get there. I mean, Jennie George got it right today when she described Labor's policies, saying they’re “unfunded policies with feel good targets.” I mean, that doesn't bring down emissions. It doesn't reduce atmospheric concentration of CO2 equivalent. What we have focused on-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] Every state and territory has adopted net zero by 2050. Many business groups too – Woolworths I just mentioned. Is your plan to let every state and corporation do it so you don’t have to utter the pledge and risk antagonising some of your own party room and supporters?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Our plan is to get there as soon as possible, Fran, and we absolutely will. And we will do it where- with a means of getting there, which will not destroy jobs, will not destroy investment, will not impose taxes on Australians and will keep Australians united. Look, you go to regional Australia, they want to see manufacturing continue to prosper and succeed. In the outer suburbs of Sydney, it’s exactly the same-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] No one is talking about closing manufacturing, they’re talking about changing the energy mix.
ANGUS TAYLOR: You know what, Fran, if you have what Labor took to the last election, which is a target without funded clear policies, there is only one way to bring down emissions and that is to slash economic activity. That's the only option you've got left. We are not going to do that. Now, Jennie George has called out the Labor Party on this. And it's very important, it's very important to listen to those people who've represented workers across Australia, for so many years. Good people who have done the right thing by hardworking Australians, who are calling out this approach where you say: ‘We’re going to set a target, without a plan. We’re going to set a target without clear policies.’
FRAN KELLY: So, all these other countries are wrong?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, every country in the world is in a different situation. I mean, we are a country that exports energy intensive goods to the world. We’ve brought down global emissions by doing that. When we sell gas to another country that uses that gas a substitute for higher emitting alternatives, we bring down global emissions. So, we have a crucial role to play globally in this. It is why our technology development in crucial areas, like hydrogen, are so important. The Japanese-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] We also have a lot at stake, don’t we? I mean, Japan and South Korea, all on the pathway to carbon neutrality by 2050, all made that pledge in the last month or so. And China, by 2060, they suck in the majority of our coal and iron ore exports and a lot of gas too. Isn’t demand for these carbon heavy exports going to fall off a cliff anyway?
ANGUS TAYLOR: And demand for products like hydrogen will grow and we will continue to see strong demand for Australian energy products in the years to come. Look, we're talking to the Japanese about this all the time. It's an important collaboration. They are a hugely important customer to our country for exactly as you say, for iron ore, for coal, for gas. And in time, I think in not a lot of time, for products like hydrogen. So, we will work with our customer countries. We are committed to net zero as soon as possible. It is a global commitment and it requires global solutions and we're focussed on providing those global solutions wherever we can. We are an important country in the mix here. And you know what, Fran? That focus we have as a Coalition, united, focussed on jobs and exports, and making sure we get the balance right as our industries change. It's inevitable, that focus has worked and it will continue to work.
FRAN KELLY: How far along with are you though? You won't commit until you say, until you can tell people this is what the Prime Minister says, how much it will cost. Now, I've asked you this a number of times, I know, but what work is being done to come up with those figures? Have you instructed your department or the Treasury to get cracking on the costs and projections?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'll tell you what we know, Fran. We know that if you have a net zero across the board 2050 target, your 2030 target will be around 43 per cent, very close to what Labor took to the last election-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] Well, what are you saying, we can’t get there?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no. We had a 26 per cent target for 2030. That's our focus-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] Yeah, but you’re saying we can’t get to net zero by 2050?
ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I am saying that if you have a straight line, which is what Labor has always done and always advocated, then you end up with a 43 per cent target. Now, people wonder why Labor's not prepared to commit to a 2030 target. I'll tell you why. Because it's, you know, the way they've always thought about it, that has to be a 43 or 45 per cent target. That's what they took for the last election. That will destroy jobs, that will require taxes, that will impose costs on Australian energy consumers and raise the price of electricity in this country.
FRAN KELLY: Okay.
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're not going to do that, Fran, and this is getting the balance right, bringing Australians along in a way where our energy sector is strong. Emissions are coming down. That is creating jobs, supporting the 850,000 workers in manufacturing in this great country. That's our focus and it will continue to be and it's good to see many members of the Labor Party calling out their policies and saying what the Coalition is doing is the right way to go about this.
FRAN KELLY: You’re listening to Breakfast. Our guest is Angus Taylor, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Can I ask you on another issue, the Sydney City Council documents, the wrong figure your office used to try and embarrass the Lord Mayor and the council over its travel expenditure. According to FOI documents released earlier this month, your office realised almost immediately that the figures you’d used, you’d put out, you'd given to the media were wrong. But you didn't do anything to correct the record until the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, complained three weeks later. Why didn't you direct your staff to get it fixed immediately?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, Fran, you know, you've asked me about this many times before. The matter has been considered and closed twice, and the Commissioner has said the matter is finalised, full stop.
FRAN KELLY: I'm just asking you why you didn't fix the record immediately when you knew. In fact, you stood in Parliament, insisted your office got these figures off the City of Sydney website. You knew by then they were wrong?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, as you know, I apologised. It's been considered twice. It's been closed twice. The matter is finalised, full stop. You know what I'm focussed on, Fran, is these crucial issues for Australians of getting the balance right in making sure we're bringing down the cost of energy, we're creating jobs as we recover from the pandemic, we're ensuring that manufacturing in Australia has access to affordable, reliable energy it needs to continue to employ and grow. And that needs to be the focus of, it needs to be the focus of all of us at the moment on, you know, Australians and this difficult time that we’re going through.
FRAN KELLY: Okay. But you think it's a proper way for a Minister of the Crown to behave, to know something is wrong and not correct the public record? Not even do it when you go into the Parliament?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I've already pointed out that I apologised for it and the matter has been considered-
FRAN KELLY: [Interrupts] Many weeks later?
ANGUS TAYLOR: C’mon, Fran. Look, I've apologised. Let's focus on the issues that Australians care about right now in their lives, which is their jobs, their industries, their regions.
FRAN KELLY: Okay.
ANGUS TAYLOR: That is what counts and that's my focus every day of the week.
FRAN KELLY: Angus Taylor, thank you very much for joining us.
Minister Taylor's office: 02 6277 7120