Interview with Narelda Jacobs Tristan MacManus, Studio 10

Nerelda Jacobs and Tristan MacManus
Emissions targets, COP26

NARELDA JACOBS: Now, the Prime Minister has released the Government's long-awaited climate change plan that he'll be taking to the Glasgow Climate Summit on behalf of all Australians. Here is Scott Morrison at the press conference he held yesterday.

SCOTT MORRISON: Australians understand, and they support the need to take action on climate change. So do I, so does our government. Our plan enables them, it doesn't legislate them, it doesn't mandate them, it doesn't force them, it respects them. It's not a plan at any cost. There's no blank cheques here. It will not shut down our coal or gas production or exports. It will not impact households, businesses, or the broader economy with new costs or taxes imposed by the initiatives that we are undertaking. It will not cost jobs because what we're doing in this plan is positive things.

TRISTAN MACMANUS: Boris Johnson referred to the announcement as heroic but local reaction has been lukewarm to say the least. Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes slammed it, dismissing it as just more BS. Greens leader Adam Bandt is furious about it, and the regional Australia is calling for more details. Joining us from Canberra is the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor. Minister, it's a pleasure to speak to you this morning. The kindest but overwhelming criticism is that this is a pledge and not a plan, with a call for more details. Is it lacking that?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Absolutely not. Most of the people saying that haven't read the 128-page document which lays out very clearly a responsible, practical pathway to emissions reduction. But it doesn't deploy taxes. This is the important point. It doesn't raise the cost of traditional energy sources, wipe out traditional industries, it focuses on bringing down the cost of low emissions technologies, the cost of solar, the cost of hydrogen, the role of soil coverage, generating our soils to absorb more carbon. Bringing the cost of doing those things down means they will be chosen by Australians because it's good for Australians. So we're trusting Australians, this is not about the government coming in and telling people what kind of car to drive, or what kind of food to eat, what kind of electricity to use, they will choose low emissions technologies for all of those activities as the cost comes down. The role of government is to support that process through $20 billion of investments we've been laying out over the last year or so, support that process of bringing the costs down, enabling Australians to make that choice. It's true, those who believe that the government should help people what to do don't like this and I can understand that. But that's not the way to solve this problem.

NARELDA JACOBS: Minister, you're saying that you're putting the trust in Australians but a lot of Australians would think that- or may say that they don't trust the government to do this because there seems to be no sense of urgency to give Australia a clear plan for 2050 and also 2030. And, really, the only reason you did this now is because the Prime Minister is going to be having to go to COP26 to face the world and the only reason the Nationals had their party room meeting on the weekend was the same thing. So why should we trust the government now to do the right thing when you are not even legislating what you're saying is a plan?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the runs are on the scoreboard. I mean, we have reached our 2020 Kyoto targets. Not by a little bit. We met and we beat them by 459 million tonnes. Now that's almost a years' worth of emissions. Very few countries can boast that kind of outcome. We are already 20.8 per cent down on our 2005 levels, on target to our 2030 targets which we announced yesterday will come under our 2005 levels by up to 35 per cent. So that smashes our targets and we continue to improve our position year-on-year-on-year. This is a long-term effort with each year we have to continually improve, and we are. The good example of this that all Australians will understand is the amount of solar going on roofs, it's the highest in the world. One in four households. That's a technology we have shaped, it's a technology that is consistently coming down in cost by 12 per cent a year, year-on-year-on year, over 50 years and that's why we're seeing it, all over our suburbs now, all over our regions, and it's working. So, this is how you do it. Bringing down the costs of low emissions technologies, invest in the research and development, get them up and running, prove them, adapt to how customers demand is changing. The customers demand for our products in Japan and Korea is continually evolving. We have to evolve with it. We have to change with it. This is the Australian way. It's practical, it's achievable, it's consistent, it's transparent, we've been very clear about this. You don't need to legislate that. We didn't need to legislate our 2020 targets and we smashed them and we're on track to smash our 2030 targets and we haven't needed to legislate that. You've got to get on and put the practical initiatives in place and trust the Australian people to make the choices they always do.

ANGELA BISHOP: Minister, when will you be revealing the details of the deals with the Nationals?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we announce our policies whenever they go through the Cabinet process. Once a policy has been adopted by Cabinet we get on and announce it. That's how coalition agreements always work. We talk about policy, we're always talking about policy, but it's not until we adopt it at Cabinet that we announce it and we'll work our way through that. But the one thing all Australians can be assured of is we are very focused on making sure that our regions are winners in this. The regions are where we have our heavy manufacturing, our mining, obviously, our agriculture, these are the industries which have the most to lose from bad policies and the most to gain from good policies. So it's right and proper that regional members of Parliament, like myself by the way, are focused on making sure that this plan is right and is going to deliver for the regions. That's what the Nationals are focused on and they're right to focus on that.

NARELDA JACOBS: Minister, we're seeing Australians impacted by climate change right now. In fact, there are islands on the Torres Strait that are being inundated by rising sea waters, and those islands are now suing the Federal Government through the Federal Court. What is going to be the government's defence?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I've only been alerted to that overnight and it's a legal matter so I'm not going to comment on a legal matter now. But what I would say, more broadly, Australia, obviously, has a role to play. We're only just over 1 per cent of global emissions but we have an important role to play as one of the big commodity exporters in the world, there's very few developed countries like us, there's Canada and New Zealand, but our emissions have come down much faster than Canada and New Zealand. We're 21 per cent down, they've barely budged in the last 15 years or so. But we have a role to play and a big part of that role is in developing those technologies that countries across the world, including in the South Pacific, can use to bring down their emissions without compromising their economy, without losing jobs, without destroying industries, that's an important role. We've shaped the development of solar worldwide. Australian technology has been at the forefront of delivering those outcomes on solar that I just talked about. We can continue to, and that is the contribution to the world over and above our emissions reductions that is absolutely crucial.

NARELDA JACOBS: Minister, you know, meanwhile, there are Torres Strait Islanders who are describing themselves as climate change refugees. But that's all we've got time for with you this morning. Thank you very much for your time on Studio 10.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.