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Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

22 April 2021

Kieran Gilbert

Subject: Clean energy initiatives in the 2021-22 Budget


KIERAN GILBERT: So $1.1 billion committed this week in terms of clean energy initiatives by the Federal Government. I asked the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, if this is all about ensuring the Prime Minister has a credible story to tell when he meets with Joe Biden and world leaders tonight. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Kieran, this is all about continuing down the path we've been going down for some time, which is focusing on technology, not taxes, as a means of reducing emissions. And the targets that count most of all are getting those technologies to a point where businesses and households will choose them, because they're lower cost, and at the same time they bring down emissions. That's how we'll achieve this, not by raising the cost of energy, not by imposing taxes on Australians, not by telling them what kind of cars to drive, but by developing and deploying technologies that allow them to bring down their emissions. Now, $1.1 billion with a focus particularly on our priority technologies. Technologies like hydrogen, like carbon capture and storage, soil carbon. And collaborating with states here in Australia, as we saw on the weekend with the South Australian deal, but also collaborating around the world with other like-minded countries to make sure we're developing those technologies as quickly as possible. And we can take advantage of those technologies to grow industries, create jobs and create opportunities - not eliminate industries which some would have us do. 

KIERAN GILBERT: When you say like-minded countries, does that include China in this sense? Because China is also obviously committing to emissions reduction. Would you consider having one of these technology partnerships with Beijing?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We'll focus on those technology partnerships that are going to get the outcomes. This is relentlessly outcome focussed, and we will continue to be. The outcomes we want: reduced emissions, more jobs, strengthening our export industries, not weakening them, Kieran. We'll work with countries that have those shared goals. I mean, this is a global problem, it requires a global solution. We're 1.3 per cent of emissions, but the bigger role we play is as a major exporter of energy products to, particularly to Asia, but to the world more broadly, as well as agricultural products, of course. And that role means the development of technologies- 

KIERAN GILBERT: So would you work with China on that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We'll work with any countries that have a similar set of goals. But, you know, ultimately we work, with particularly customer countries, and we're already working very actively with Japan, for instance. A major steel maker, big buyer of our iron ore, our gas, our coal. Of course, Japan has great challenges in bringing down its emissions. It wants its partner countries like Australia to work with it on the technologies that would allow this to happen. Now, setting targets like getting the cost of hydrogen under $2 a kilogram, that's all about making the economics of this work both domestically in Australia, but also for those customer countries, which means we can strengthen our economy, not weaken it.

KIERAN GILBERT: We've got the US going to commit to 50 per cent reduction by 2030. That's the widely expected result from Joe Biden. The EU overnight committing to 55 per cent by 2030. The Brits, 68 per cent by that year, and 78 per cent by 2035. All of our major allies are making ambitious commitments. Why are you so averse to targets?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, our ambitions are ambitious, Kieran. There's no doubt about that. We meet and beat our targets though, which a lot of countries don't do. We're already 19 per cent down on our 2005 levels. A lot of those numbers you just mentioned, you're not necessarily comparing apples with apples. But we're already 19 per cent down. We're on track to not just meet our 2030 targets, but beat them. We'll be releasing our long-term strategy later in the year ahead of Glasgow. But what we'll continue to always do is deliver and beat. That's what we did with Kyoto, by 469 million tonnes, almost a year's worth of emissions. That's what we'll also do with Paris. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Are you open to stepping up that mid-term target? Are you open to doing that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We release our projections every year, and I was about to say, those projections have improved our position versus our 2020 targets and 2030 targets every year since we've been in government. I expect it to be the same this year. We'll release those updates and we'll release our long term strategy before Glasgow. I'm confident they will be positive, and they’ll continue to be positive, because that's how we do it, Kieran. It's practical action on the ground, sensible stuff. You know, one-in-four Australians with household solar on their rooves, extraordinary uptake in energy efficiency technologies like LED lighting in Australia. Practical things being done in industries across the board to drive energy efficiency. Hydrogen investment happening at a very rapid pace now here in Australia. These are real practical actions on the ground, particularly in regional Australia. 

KIERAN GILBERT: The tech is good, but the big focus is on the targets isn't it? The targets is where the US focus is, the UK. Our allies are heading in that direction. I just want to get a sense from you. Are you open to being more ambitious with that mid-term 2030 target? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I've already answered the question. I said our projections will be updated later in the year. Our long-term strategy will come out later in the year, and I'm confident, based on past experience, that they will be positive. We'll continue to improve our position, Kieran, I can’t answer the question any more clearly than that, but the point I'd make to you is that-

KIERAN GILBERT: But that does sound like you're willing to increase it. Your critics say you won't. And the point is it sounds to me like you might.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Kieran, I've just made an observation of fact about what we've done every year since we've been in government and what we'll be releasing later this year, and, you know, our position continues to improve. I'll tell you what our critics have said. Our critics said that we wouldn't meet or beat our Kyoto targets. Well, we met and beat them by 469 million tonnes. That's almost a year's worth of emissions. There's barely a country in the world that can boast that kind of outcome. Our critics said that we can't meet and beat our 2030 targets. Well, we're already on track to do that, Kieran, and we'll continue to improve that position. The $1.1 billion we've committed in the last couple of days on practical technologies that will bring down emissions on the ground we know will improve our position to 2030 and beyond. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you accept that targets can have a real-world impact?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you know what? They may or may not. It depends on delivery. That's how targets work. Delivery is what actually matters at the end of the day-

KIERAN GILBERT: But what about where the capital goes? Investors? But doesn't, the point is doesn't international capital shift depending potentially on where countries are seen as being serious or not, where there's certainty, frameworks around investments, including the targets?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we have frameworks around investment. We've got a Technology Investment Roadmap. $18 billion committed before the last set of commitments. $1.1 billion in the last 48 hours. We've made it very clear where we're allocating our resources. We know private sector money is going with it. We're seeing projects where for every dollar we invest, we're getting $9 of investment from state governments and the private sector. We've made it very, very clear. We've set clear targets on those technologies. Getting the cost of hydrogen under $2 a kilogram. Getting the cost of measuring soil carbon on our farms down to below $3 per hectare per year. I mean, these are very tangible targets with very clear signals. 


ANGUS TAYLOR: And, you know, we were at a business yesterday, Star Scientific on the Central Coast, that have worked out how to use hydrogen in coal-fired generators, Kieran, using existing kit to bring down emissions and continue to produce electricity and do it on a very affordable basis. The target we've set on the cost of hydrogen is one that they've engaged with. They are absolutely focused on that. So we've made very clear signals, and we're seeing the response from the private sector to those signals. 


ANGUS TAYLOR: Including from people like Twiggy Forrest, who is very focused on getting that cost of hydrogen down to a level where we can make it economic, not just for domestic use, but for our exports as well.

KIERAN GILBERT: We're almost out of time, but I just want to put to you the briefing from a senior Biden Administration official overnight. And the quote was: “We think our colleagues in Australia recognise that there needs to be a shift”, in terms of our approach to climate and ambition. Do you accept that there needs to be a shift?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there's a recognition that the global trajectory is not what it needs to be. There's no doubt about that. What we're seeing is developed countries like Australia and the US bringing down their emissions. Us, faster than the US or Canada or New Zealand or Germany or many other countries. But developed countries in general, the emissions are coming down, but the developing world, they're going up very sharply. We've seen 30 gigawatts of new coal being put into place in China in the last 12 months alone. That's the equivalent of five large coal-fired - 15, sorry, or 20 large coal-fired generators just in the last year alone. So, the developing world has a challenge, as we do in the developed world, but it's a particular challenge there because they're trying to bring people into the middle class, and they need technologies that allow them to bring people into the middle class, to urbanise, to industrialise in ways that are consistent with jobs growth, investment, and opportunity. That's why we've got to have these technologies that come to parity with their higher-emitting alternatives. And it'll be the engineers, the innovators, the scientists, those skilled people who can support those projects across Australia and the world who will help to solve this problem. It won't be the tax collectors. It will be those enterprising people, who we have a large number of here in Australia. I meet every day. They'll solve this problem. We'll work with them. We're investing. We're supporting them. We're facilitating them. And that needs to be a problem that is solved globally, not just locally.