Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

Kieran Gilbert
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report on climate science

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, thanks for your time. How concerned are you reading the findings of this report about particularly the implications for more severe storms, more severe flooding and droughts and fires, particularly for our nation?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, this is a very important report, and it highlights the enormous importance of bringing down emissions, but doing it in a way which is going to strengthen our economy, not weaken it, and bringing other countries around the world down that pathway as well. We know that about two-thirds of emissions comes from the developing world, and it's crucial that we support them with the technologies that are going to allow them to bring down their emissions in a way which is practically achievable, Kieran. That's important, not just for Australia, but for those countries right across the world who want to see rising incomes, strengthening economies, but they also want to see reducing emissions. That's why our focus on technology, not taxes, is so important. That's why it is the right pathway and it's why we're convinced it's the right pathway, not just for Australia, but for the world.

KIERAN GILBERT: The world, though, is talking a lot about ambition. Boris Johnson, Joe Biden calling for urgency and ambition, as has your former colleague, Mathias Cormann, Secretary-General of the OECD, saying there needs to be greater ambition. Are you and the Prime Minister cognisant of that internationally?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We're ambitious to meet and beat our targets. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters for global emissions is bringing them down, achievement. We have a very strong track record of achievement. We met and beat our Kyoto targets; many other countries didn't. They pulled out of Kyoto. We stuck the course and we beat our targets by 459 million tonnes. So that's almost a years' worth of emissions. We're on track to meet and beat our 2030 targets. We've updated our projections each year, and we've improved them every year we've been in government.

KIERAN GILBERT: So will you update then that 2030 trajectory, specifically that target?

KIERAN GILBERT: We update our projections every year, Kieran, and we will do that in advance of Glasgow, as we always do, and we've always seen improvement. To put it in perspective, the improvement in the last two years combined has been the equivalent of taking every car off the road in Australia for 15 years. That's the improvement. Now, we didn't have to take a car off the road to do it. This is the key, that if you deploy technologies like we are in Australia, the highest-level of installed solar PV in the world - one in four houses in Australia; no other country with that kind of penetration of solar PV. If you do that, you can do it in ways which maintains affordable, reliable energy and strengthens your economy, not weakens it. That's the way through.

KIERAN GILBERT: In terms of the ambition though, that's what the world is calling for. The President of the United States says it's the decisive decade. Will you be more ambitious? Or will the Government have more ambition in terms of where it's heading?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We are ambitious, but let me tell you what really counts, is if you read the report closely, is outcomes. That's the thing that's going to matter most of all is delivery. Now, countries can talk about whatever they like, but they need a plan to get the outcomes and that's what's distinctive about the Australian way. We've always had plans from our government to achieve strong outcomes, and we've met and beaten those plans, and as a result, delivered extraordinary outcomes. Now, we're seeing on the ground now - I've talked about solar PV - we've seen families changing their farming practices to absorb emissions. We've seen manufacturing changing through energy efficiency gains right across the country. I mean, these are practical actions that are being taken. We're supporting that with significant investment; $20 billion we've committed to technology-based development and deployment. That will bring forward about $80 billion across clean hydrogen, clean steel and aluminium, stored energy. Snowy 2.0 is a good example of a project like that. These technologies are the way not just for Australia, but for the world, Kieran.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Prime Minister says - and this is something you've argued - that you're not going to commit to something without a plan in terms of how much it's going to cost and so on. Where are your officials at in terms of modelling net zero by 2050? Will we see that before those important climate talks in Glasgow in November?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I make a couple of points about that. The first is we don't write blank checks because, you're writing blank checks to the Australian people that have to be paid. So we're not going to do that. What we are going to do is continue to drive sensible plans. We've said that we will release our long-term strategy in advance of Glasgow. That will build on work that we've been doing. We released the Technology Investment Roadmap last year, which prioritised five core technologies on top of the ones where we're already leading, like solar PV that I mentioned. Those five priority technologies can substantially reduce or eliminate emissions across sectors which are responsible for 90 per cent of the world's emissions, Kieran. 

KIERAN GILBERT: But that 2050 modelling and will we see more on that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: As I said, long-term strategy will continue to work on that and release updates. We're due to update the Low Emissions Technology Statement in the next little while, which will continue to build on the work we've done on technologies last year, which you, of course, have seen. So this work is always ongoing. This is the Australian approach. We're very transparent. We focus on plans, and we focus on delivery and that's what the world needs right across, countries right across the world.

KIERAN GILBERT: No, I totally understand the point about the technology. That's your mantra. I get that. But internationally, look at the G7. Most of our allies, key allies, trading partners, they're all committed to net zero by 2050. I don't see how the Government can go to that summit and not at least commit to that.

ANGUS TAYLOR: But we've made it very clear we want to get to net zero. We want to get there as soon as possible and preferably by 2050, Kieran. There's no ambiguity about this. 

KIERAN GILBERT: I think there is. You’ll cop a bit of heat internationally if you commit to that.

ANGUS TAYLOR: So, you know, at the end of the day, what counts, Kieran, is outcomes. Politicians make lots of promises, and we're often criticised for making promises. Actually, what we do is not just making promises but delivering, meeting and beating those goals. That's what we'll do here. That's what we'll continue to do. As I say, we'll release the long-term strategy in advance of Glasgow. We’ll update the Low Emissions Technology Statement vision technology statement but, you know, the core of the Paris Agreement, Kieran, is the 2030 target. Now, we have a strong 2030 target. We put out projections last year that showed we're on track to meet and beat it. We'll update those. The other side of politics doesn't even have a 2030 target. They don't have a 2030 target. This is the core of the Paris Agreement. Labor's walked away from it. They have not told us what their 2030 target would be. We'll continue to work to meet and beat that target. As I say, we'll put up our updated projections in advance of Glasgow.

KIERAN GILBERT: On emissions reduction, most of it- can you concede most of that is being done via farming changes, land use changes. We've actually seen our energy system increase its emissions intensity.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no, it's not right. We've seen a five per cent reduction in emissions in the national electricity market in the last year alone and demand has remained very strong despite COVID. So we are seeing very rapid reductions in our electricity grid. Solar is playing a really key part of that. We've got the highest installed solar PV in the world, Kieran. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Matt Canavan says it was- it's the farming. Farmers are to thank basically from 2005 to 2012 in terms of emissions reduction. Are you saying that's not the lion's share of the emissions fall?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, I've already highlighted the important role that farmers have been playing in bringing down our emissions. There's no doubt about that. And they have played a crucial role and will continue to in the future. We're seeing soil carbon projects now across Australia, which not only absorb more carbon in our soil, but at the same time raise agricultural productivity. I mean, this is fantastic stuff using soil testing technologies that didn't exist a few short years ago. So we're understanding more about our soils, we're understanding more about how they can produce more agricultural output and how they can absorb more carbon. So farmers are playing a crucial role, but it's broader than that. It's our electricity grid, it's our manufacturers - we're seeing extraordinary energy efficiency in manufacturing. We've seen energy efficiency in the transport sector. We've seen a rapid uptake of hybrid vehicles in the last year alone and that will continue. There's no doubt about that. So across the board, we're seeing real change. It's practical. It's happening. It's been chosen by consumers because it's good for them, or farmers and manufacturers because it's good for them. That will continue to be our focus.

KIERAN GILBERT: Finally, you've got this international pressure on the one hand. Internally, you've got the Nationals pressure from Barnaby Joyce, the new Deputy Prime Minister, newly returned Nationals leader. Can you manage both? Can you navigate that tightrope? It is a tightrope.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yes and the reason is this. It's if you deploy clean energy technologies, low emissions technologies that strengthen the economy at the same time as bringing down emissions, you can break the trade-off, Kieran. This is how we do it, not just in Australia, but around the world. This trade-off and the tension between maintaining strong sectors, jobs growth, and investment and bringing down emissions, we can break that trade-off with strong technology investment and development. That's what's happening in this country. That's what we need to make sure happens right across the world and that's how we break the impasse that we've seen in this area of policy in the past.

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister Taylor, appreciate your time, as always. Thanks.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good on you, Kieran.