Interview with Jules Schiller, ABC Radio Adelaide

Climate Change, Energy

JULES SCHILLER: I'm joined now by the Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Welcome Angus.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me Jules.

JULES SCHILLER: This is a pretty damning report - Australians wouldn't think of themselves in those terms. How would you respond?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we're a massive energy export. South Australia's a massive energy exporter and has been for a long while, and that's a good thing. It's been very important to our economy across Australia, it's been very important to the South Australian economy, and will be for many years to come. Now, I'd make a few points about this report though. 50 per cent of the coal that we export, or just under 50 per cent, is actually metallurgical coal for making steel. It takes, for instance, 200 tonnes of metallurgical coal to make a wind turbine, and there's no clear substitute for that available right now. So look, this is a very, very important part of our exports. The world needs these energy exports. A big part of those exports is also gas, and we know that the emissions from gas are up to half what they would be if they were otherwise coal, and gas is always considered to be a very, very important transition fuel as we move to more renewables in the grid, whether it's in Japan or Korea or China, or indeed in Australia. So look, there's a lot that's not said in this report - it should be. We play a very, very important role in the world energy mix, and we will be for many years to come. It's important for jobs, it's important for industry, and of course many of those exports - particularly the gas exports - are playing an important role in reducing global emissions.

JULES SCHILLER: Richard Merzian's point though that opening more coal mines doesn't really look economically viable, and we're seeing some problems with Adani at the moment - I don't believe they're able to fund a rail link there, Energy Minister - would you agree with that? Do you think Adani is going to go ahead?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, I don't agree with that all. I mean, we saw during the election campaign in Queensland an outpouring of anger against the convoy that went up to oppose our exports of coal, and the Adani mine. Look, there's a role for coal to play. It's falling, gas is replacing coal, and in the process it's very often our gas - we're the biggest exporter of gas in the world - and that will continue to happen, but coal continues to play a role because it's a low cost transportable, storable fuel. As the cost of renewables - and particularly the back-up for renewables - continues to come down, we'll see a changing mix. This will happen at a sensible pace, and Australia can play a role in that. Look, we're also investing heavily in hydrogen, which is a clean fuel, and it has enormous potential. As a Government, we're playing a significant role in investing in hydrogen projects. They're still some way from being economic as an export for Australia, but we have to do the work because in time that will be another fuel that we can add to our mix.

JULES SCHILLER: At the Pacific Islands Forum, it was reported that Australia didn't agree to the term ‘climate crisis’ in the communique. Do you think we have a climate crisis?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I think climate change is real and we need to deal with it-

JULES SCHILLER: [Talks over] It's not a crisis though?

ANGUS TAYLOR: But we need to deal with it in a way which doesn't destroy our industries, doesn't destroy jobs, and is sensible and pragmatic - and that's exactly what we're doing. Look, unlike many other countries in the world, we've reached our 2012 Kyoto targets, we'll reach our 2020 Kyoto targets easily, and we're on track to reach our 2030 Paris targets. So look, we are doing our bit here - it's important that we do - but it's also important that industries that have played a very, very big role in Australia's past and their future continue to, and of course, that's as important to South Australia as it is to many other states in this great country.

JULES SCHILLER: Some commentators though, Energy Minister, are saying that there needs to be a coherent policy in place to meet those Paris 2030 targets. Are you planning on releasing one?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there is. We've laid out to the last tonne before the election how we're going to reach those targets. We knew as of December last year, we needed to find another 328 million tonnes of abatement. We have laid out to the last tonne, through our climate solutions package in particular, how we're going to achieve it; 102 million tonnes from the Climate Solutions Fund, 60 odd million tonnes from energy efficiency initiatives, significant tonnage from hydro projects like Snowy 2.0 and Battery of the Nation. We've laid out exactly how we're going to do it - it's important that we do - but it's important that we do it without destroying jobs, without destroying industries. The Australia Institute and others would love to see these industries go. But you've got to ask them, how are you going to construct the wind turbines - a typical wind turbine takes 200 tonnes - the modern wind turbine, very big - 200 tonnes of metallurgical coal to make them. I mean these fuels still play a very, very important role and will for many years to come.

JULES SCHILLER: I'll just quickly put that to Richard Merzian who joins me from The Australia Institute. I mean, Richie, have you been, sort of, cute with these figures here? I mean you're counting coal that might be used in building wind turbines, gas can help reduce emissions. I mean do you agree with the Energy Minister that it's a little bit short-sighted and you're fudging the figures?

RICHARD MERZIAN – THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE: No, Jules, we don't. These are not our figures - they're IEA's figures. And speaking of the International Energy Agency, it put out a report just this year on the role of gas in today's energy transition and it found that gas and all the LNG that we export will only provide about 8 per cent of the emissions reductions needed in terms of switching from coal to gas. So to say that LNG is playing a major role in that transition away from gas is just not really stacking up. Again, this is not our number, this is the IEA's. The other part is Australia is not on track to meet the 2030 target. The only way that Australia is trying to do that is by gaming the system by using these dodgy carbon credits that Australia's accrued from the Kyoto protocol.

JULES SCHILLER: I should let the Energy Minister respond to that. Energy Minister Angus Taylor joins me - [laughs] as you say dodgy. Minister, how would you respond to Richie Merzian?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there's just falsehoods in a whole lot of things he said there. I mean, gas plays an incredibly important role in the transition because it's back-up, it can be turned on very quickly and turned off very quickly as wind and solar comes on and off. That's why it is so important, that's why the Japanese, the Koreans, the Chinese all want our gas. We're the biggest exporter of gas in the world. The Australia Institute doesn't deal with the fact that almost half of our coal exports are metallurgical coal where there's no clear substitute. As I said, 200 tonnes of metallurgical coal required to make a modern wind turbine. In term of reaching our Paris targets, look, we exceeded our Kyoto targets in 2012 and 2020. Australians, and particularly farmers through land management who've played a very big role in achieving those outcomes, deserve credit for that - and we think it's absolutely appropriate that be part of the framework.

JULES SCHILLER: Angus Taylor, Federal Energy Minister, thanks for your time this afternoon.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Jules.