Interview with Fran Kelly, ABC RN Breakfast
7 June 2019
Subject: Climate Change
FRAN KELLY: The Morrison Government maintains Australia is still on track to meet the emissions reduction target pledged under the Paris Climate Change agreement despite the latest figures showing our greenhouse gas emissions have risen again for the fourth year in a row. The new government figures released yesterday show emissions rose by 3.5 million tonnes- three and a half million tonnes in 2018. That's up 0.7 per cent on the previous year. The data was supposed to be published last Friday. Labor and the Greens have been very critical of the delay, saying the government's trying to avoid scrutiny. And we did finally get the figures yesterday. Angus Taylor is the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, Fran.
FRAN KELLY: Angus Taylor, the Senate has set a deadline of May 31st for the release of these figures, you missed that deadline by six days. Then you released them first through The Australian newspaper in the midst of the outrage over the AFP raids. Were you trying to avoid scrutiny?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely not, Fran. You have the data, it's out. I was sworn in last Wednesday, a week ago, and as you would expect there's a lot to work through when you've got an expanded portfolio and you've just been sworn in. We've done that. You've got the data, and I'm very keen to talk about it.
FRAN KELLY: Okay, let's talk about it then. These figures show emissions are up for a fourth year in the row, up by 0.7 per cent. Isn't your government failing when it comes to reducing emissions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well absolutely not, Fran. Let's put this into context. We have the lowest level of emissions per capita, and on an emissions intensity basis for twenty-nine years. Down 40 and 60 per cent, respectively. Yes, there has been a very modest increase in the absolute level of emissions. But let's unpack this a little bit. If you look at the emissions, they come in two parts. One is without the LNG exports that have been growing rapidly, and those emissions have been coming down consistently year on year since 2013. So if you exclude LNG exports, a significant reduction in emissions. Now LNG exports are important because they're actually being sold up into Asia to replace coal, and that's resulting in significant reductions in global emissions. So Australia's contribution to global emissions through what's going on here is very, very important. We're reducing those emissions in a substantial way. In fact, the reduction in global emissions as a result of our exports leads to a reduction of as much as 148 million tonnes, which is a very significant part of our total emissions.
FRAN KELLY: Let's go to some of those elements then. You point to the significant falls in per capita emissions, that's true, they're down to the lowest levels in 29 years. But that has no relationship to what our commitment is. Our commitment is to reduce overall emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on the 2005 levels by 2030, and we're going backwards.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well no, look, let's be clear about this, Fran.
FRAN KELLY: Well, it can't be clearer than that.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no, it is clearer than that and I'll tell you why. So in December last year, of course, the department, as they do each year, put out a forecast of the abatement required for us to meet our 26 per cent emission reduction. Now we have laid out to the last tonne how we'll achieve that. We put that out before the election campaign right to the last tonne. 328 million tonnes of abatement we need to achieve- to achieve our Paris obligations. Eleven years ahead of time, we've laid out a very clear plan, each initiative necessary to achieve those reductions. Now we've seen Kyoto 1 2012 target, we achieved easily Kyoto 2, and we have laid out to the last tonne how we achieve…
FRAN KELLY: We could have a plan, but we also have a forecast for GDP growth and we're a long way from that either, and we keep missing that. We have a plan perhaps, but we are- our emissions are going up four years in a row.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Fran, let's be clear. Our plan is laid out to the last tonne, to the last tonne. So we've got 102 million tonnes…
FRAN KELLY: Yeah but Minister, we are going- the emissions are going up, not down.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, look, as I said, the thing that has driven up emissions by 0.7 per cent in the last 12 months is LNG, LNG exports. Now, we've had rapid growth in LNG exports over the last five or six years, unprecedented growth. We're now an LNG export superpower. There's very few countries in the world that are even close to us. And it's true that they have had an impact on our local emissions. They're having a very substantial impact on reducing global emissions. Those LNG exports..
FRAN KELLY: Alright, but I want to …
ANGUS TAYLOR: We don't- let me finish. Those LNG exports we expect will slow, the growth. It's a very important industry. It will continue to grow. It's important in a whole range of ways, for jobs, for investment, and for reduction of global emissions. We do expect those to slow over time. That's all embedded in our figures, in our projections, which are all public. And the 328 million tonnes of abatement that we need in order to achieve our Paris obligations are there for everybody to scrutinise. We've laid it out the last tonne, in stark contrast to Labor, by the way…
FRAN KELLY: Well let's not talk about Labor. Labor isn't in Government, you are in Government, and you keep telling us we're going to meet our Paris emissions in a canter. And at the moment they're going up and projections from your Department - official projections published last year by your old Department of Environment and Energy - show in a graph that they're going up all the way to 2030 by a huge margin.
ANGUS TAYLOR: No, no, hang on, hang on Fran. You- that's not correct. I've just explained it. So, last year in December the Department put out projections. We have since then laid out a plan for 328 million tonnes of abatement, in addition to those projections. Now that is laid out to the last tonne: 102 million tonnes from our Climate Solutions Fund; 67 million tonnes from energy efficiency initiatives; 100 million tonnes from technology improvements. So, this is all laid out and it is exactly what is needed in order to achieve our Paris commitments. Now, we reached our Kyoto commitments without anything like that level of clarity. We have absolute clarity 11 years ahead of the time.
FRAN KELLY: Okay.
ANGUS TAYLOR: One of the things that's helping us …
FRAN KELLY: I'm going to interrupt you now, because I want to go to this key point you're making about our LNG exports. And you're right, LNG exports have jumped, and they've counted for a significant part of our higher domestic emissions. You seem to be congratulating us on that. But if this is a substantial global contribution to be proud of - that's your words - why then is our Government supporting new thermal coal exports, like the Adani mine in the Galilee Basin? If we're proud of our LNG exports because they replace coal, isn't the corollary of that we should be embarrassed by our coal exports?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely not, I mean …
FRAN KELLY: Why not?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well because of the LNG industry is a major industry. It's creating jobs, it's creating investment, and it is…
FRAN KELLY: No, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about if that's something to be proud of because it's replacing coal in Asia with a cleaner fuel, which is what you've just told us, then why are we advocating more coal exports?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, at the end of the day what's needed in electricity grids across the world is balance. And…
FRAN KELLY: Yeah, but Minister that just completely contradicts what you've told us about why we should be happy about the LNG exports.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely not Fran. Look, what's needed in every electricity grid right now is balance. It is not possible at this point to have an unbalanced grid that's relying on one type of fuel. Now, gas is playing a bigger role in economies right across the world in fuelling electricity. And that's a good thing, because gas emissions are about half of coal, but they both play different roles in an electricity grid. Now…
FRAN KELLY: Yeah but you're grabbing the one that suits you now, to make- put a good spin on these numbers and then at the same time, you've been banging on about the Galilee Basin and Adani exports and we've got to get this going because they're good for jobs, and you're just admitting that they're bad for emissions.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Fran, my point is that balance is the way to do this. And what we're seeing is gas playing a bigger share in the fuel sources for electricity grids across Asia and across the world for that matter. And that's a good thing. We're playing a role in that, we're making an important contribution to that. Coal won't disappear overnight.
FRAN KELLY: No.
ANGUS TAYLOR: It can't possibly disappear overnight, because we don't have the alternatives yet. It will play a lesser role over time, that's absolutely inevitable, but this is about balance. It's about a sensible pathway. Gas plays a very important role in that. And our exports of gas are playing an extremely important role in that process in Asia and…
FRAN KELLY: Okay.
ANGUS TAYLOR: As I've said, 148 million tonnes- up to 148 million tonnes of lower emissions as a result of our exports. That is something to be proud of, Fran.
FRAN KELLY: It's thirteen to eight, our guest is Angus Taylor. He's the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Can I just ask you finally, Minister, on something outside your portfolio; the AFP raids this week on the News Corp journalist's home and on the ABC are not a great look for the government. The Law Council of Australia spoke of a chilling effect on government transparency and integrity if the freedom of the press is diminished.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'm absolutely committed to freedom of the press. I'm a big believer in freedom of speech more generally, and I have been since well before I entered the Parliament, Fran. Obviously like everything there's got to be a balance here. National security concerns are very important. This is an independent investigation that's been conducted by the AFP. I can assure you, I was the Minister for Law Enforcement before my current role. The AFP does act very independently. They've made that point themselves. That's absolutely as it should be. The referrals came to them; they evaluate them as they see fit…
FRAN KELLY: Okay.
ANGUS TAYLOR: They've acted on those, Fran. And you know, ultimately we should let these independent investigations run their course. You know, there's lots of talk about changes of the law, you know, when there's specific proposals put I'm sure there'll be an appropriate discussion about that.
FRAN KELLY: Angus Taylor, thanks very much for joining us.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks Fran.