Press conference - Canberra, ACT

Press conference with the Prime Minister to discuss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report on climate science

PRIME MINISTER: Well, good morning everyone. I’m joined by the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction to address the very serious issue of the IPCC report. Before I do that, though, the news out of New South Wales today, hard news, really difficult news. Three hundred and fifty six cases, four reported deaths. We are in a tough, tough fight with this Deltra strain, a tough fight. And, I want to thank everyone across New South Wales, right across the country, other places going through lockdowns as well. But, we know that the fight in New South Wales is the toughest of all of those fights, and there's a lot at stake. You know, I want Australia to get to Christmas, but I want everybody around that table at Christmas time. And, that’s the seriousness of this issue and that’s the seriousness with which it’s being addressed by I know by the New South Wales Government and our Government, and we will do everything we can to ensure we achieve that goal.

And, on another very serious matter, the IPCC report, which once again affirms the serious challenge that we face here in Australia because of the serious implications for Australia of what's happening globally, but also for our region. And, just last week I met with the Pacific Island leaders again, and their advocacy on this has been consistent and strong, and something I've been very mindful of and listen to carefully. A serious challenge not just for Australia and advanced countries around the world, but all countries around the world. And, the IPCC report affirms to me again my fundamental belief about how we must address this global challenge.

We must take action, as we indeed are, and continue to take action, as we will continue to, in developed countries, in advanced economies. But, we cannot ignore the fact that the developing world accounts for two thirds of global emissions, and those emissions are rising. That is a stark fact. It is also a clear fact that China's emissions account for more than the OECD combined. Now, I make that point not to say that we should be posing taxes on this, these countries. Quite the contrary. I totally understand and accept that the advanced world, the advanced economies of the world have developed their economies over a long time, principally on the basis of fossil fuel industries. That is accepted. And, I think it's a very fair argument that the developing world makes, which says why should our economic futures be denied when advanced economies around the world have been able to go forward on that basis of their energy economies over a long period of time? I think that's a very fair point. But, it doesn't change the calculus of climate change.

The Australian approach is not to tax them or deny them the employment and the jobs in the industries that they should have, just as we should have them here in this country. But, to enable them. World history teaches one thing, technology changes everything. That is the game changer. Governments, political leaders can pretend to these things but, I'll tell you what makes the difference, technology changes on the ground. And, that is why our approach is technology, not taxes, to solving this problem. It's not enough for the technology to work with a tax in an advanced economy. That doesn't solve the problem, because it doesn't solve the problem in India. It doesn't solve it in India, in Vietnam, or in Indonesia or in China or in South Africa. It doesn't solve the problem. The emissions keep going up because of the choices that they will necessarily make. And, so, what's important is that we ensure that the technology breakthroughs that are necessary to transform the world over the next 10, 20 and 30 years are realised.

When I was at the G7, we spoke about a number of issues. We spoke about this issue. But, the day before we spoke about COVID, and we talked about how science and technology is helping us, in fact, enabling us to ultimately beat COVID-19. And, we discussed how important it was to get vaccines right around the world in order to be true to the principle that unless the world was vaccinated, then we would still have serious issues when it comes to how this virus would continue to impact on the planet.

It's no different when it comes to addressing the challenge of global climate change. Unless we can get the change in the developing countries of the world, then what we're seeing in these IPCC reports will occur. And, so, we need to take a different approach. We need to focus on the technological breakthroughs that are necessary to change the world and how we operate, and make sure that is done right across the world, not just in advanced countries. It's not enough. Australia is, must and continue to do its part, and Australia has a strong track record of performance, and we intend for that to continue to increase in the years ahead. And, Angus will speak more to that, about what's being achieved and what's being planned and how that is occurring.

Australia is part of the solution. Our emissions have fallen by 20 per cent since 2005. We are the only country to our knowledge, that engages in the transparency of reporting our emissions reductions, every sector, every gas, every quarter. No other country, to our knowledge, does that. They may do it on this one or that one. But, not every emission, not every sector, every gas and every quarter. Australia's record of reducing emissions stands above those who are claiming to achieve bigger things in the future, but haven't achieved it to date. They haven't achieved it to the extent that Australia has. They can't claim the highest solar uptake on households in the world. They can't claim a rate of renewable uptake eight times the global average per capita, like Australia can. Australia is part of the solution. Australia is doing its part as part of the solution, and Australia will continue to do more as part of that solution, because we understand what it means for our own country.

Our commitments are backed up by plans, and we don't make them lightly. We consider them carefully. Australians deserve to know the implications and the costs and what the plans are. I did that before the last election. I said what our 2030 commitment was. I explained how I thought we would get there. I explained the costs to Australians, and Australians supported us. I will do that again as we go into the commitments later this year. I'll do it again before the next election. I won't be signing a blank cheque on behalf of Australians to targets without plans. We will set out a clear plan, as we have been working to do. Australians deserve to know, and they will from us. Regional communities should not be forced to carry the national burden, and I won't let them. I will ensure that we have a plan that addresses the need for jobs and industries that can be supported by new energy technologies, both now and into the future. I will not be asking people in the regions of this country to carry the burden for the country alone. I'll be ensuring that we have a plan that addresses their, their critical needs, that addresses their anxieties, and seeks to bring the whole country with us on this very important task that we have together.

So, we have an Australian way to deal with this challenge and it's been put into place. I'll tell you what the Australian why isn't, the Australian way is not what we have seen with the vandalism in our capital today. I don't associate, in any way, shape or form, that foolishness with the good-hearted nature of Australians who care deeply about this issue, as I do and my Government does. I don't associate them with this. They have no part with that foolishness today, any more than we've seen in other selfish protests around this country. Australians care deeply about this issue, and so does our Government. Action will be taken against those who have committed those offences in our capital today, as they should and, I think Australians who, regardless of what their position on this issue, would agree with that. That is not the way we go forward. There is a woman that I wave to almost every morning when I come into this building, as I drive up. And there's often people, as you all know, who will be putting their point across peacefully and calmly down there on the ramp coming up into Parliament House. She's there almost every morning and she makes this point every day, and she gives me a wave and she gives me a smile. I'll tell you what, I'm listening to her. I'm listening to Australians about this issue. And, more than that, we're taking action that I think will actually make the difference. We need the technological changes that will transform the global energy economy of the world. It's not good enough for it to just happen to Australia and the United States and in Europe. It must happen in these other countries, and they must have prosperity. Otherwise, we will not fix this. That is the Australian way. Angus. 

THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well, thanks, PM. And of course this report underscores the enormous importance of the work that Australia is doing to reduce our emissions but it also underscores the importance of coordinated global action to reduce emissions. It underscores the importance of practical solutions to bring down global emissions, find those pathways that allow countries across the globe to strengthen their economy, at the same time as they’re bringing down emissions. And the pathway to do that is technology, not taxes, not defacing buildings. The technology investments that we know solve hard problems, have been solving hard problems for humans for a long, long time. That means commercial, competitive technology that developing countries can adopt, just as Australia is adopting at a rapid pace, to bring down their emissions and strengthen their economies at the same time.

Now, we know in Australia this approach is working. We have the highest rate of installed solar PV in the world. One in four houses in Australia with solar on their roofs. That’s world leading, that’s world beating. We're seeing extraordinary changes in farming practices, in the deployment of soil testing technologies by farmers across this country bringing down emissions, contributing to Australia's performance, whereby we met and beat our Kyoto targets, our 2020 targets, 459 million tonnes. We beat those targets, almost a year's worth of emissions. We're on track to meet and beat our 2030 targets as well. Indeed, in the last two years alone, our performance versus our 2030 targets has been the equivalent of taking every car off the road, 14.5 million cars off the road for 15 years. That's the improvement in just two years. We improve our performance versus our targets every year, and we have done since we got into Government.

Of course, the heart of this is those priority technologies that we laid out in a Technology Investment Roadmap. Clean hydrogen, three of the biggest electrolyser projects in the world announced just recently, 10 megawatt projects in Australia. Just as we've led the world on solar PV, we will lead the world on clean hydrogen, healthy soils, soil carbon. Just as we've led the world on installed solar PV, we will lead the world on healthy soils, energy storage, Snowy 2, a huge storage project to make sure that not only can we absorb the record renewables investment in our grid, seven gigawatts just in the last year alone, more than the entire time under the previous Labor Government, absorbing those renewables, but also bringing down emissions with flexible dispatchable storage. Clean steel, clean aluminium. The change is happening. The change is happening. The investments are happening.

We've committed $20 billion in the coming years. That'll bring forward a total of $80 billion of public and private sector investment in deploying and developing these technologies that will make a difference not just in Australia, but these five priority technologies will either eliminate or substantially reduce emissions across sectors responsible for 90 per cent of the world's emissions. This is the way we do it, partnering with countries across the world. Of the $1.1 billion of additional funding we put in at the last Budget, $568 [million] is for partnerships with countries across the world. We've already signed partnerships with Singapore, with the UK, with Germany, with Japan, and will continue to do so to make sure these technologies are developed and deployed in ways that allow us to strengthen our economies, create jobs, drive investment and bring down emissions at the same time. That's the Australian way.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the US President, the British Prime Minister, the Secretary-General of the OECD Mathias Cormann, they’re all calling for urgency and ambition when it comes to this issue. Are you willing to show more ambition? And, if so, where is the modelling at, would you release it before you go to or the Minister goes to the COP in Glasgow? And, on the other big story of the day, of course the immediate urgency of the Sydney outbreak, should Gladys Berejiklian lockdown harder like Melbourne, or is she right when she says Delta is different, it can't be controlled?

PRIME MINISTER: Let me deal with the, the first point. We need more performance. We need more technology. And, no one will be matching our ambition for a technology driven solution, because I believe that's what will work. And we, of course, will be updating where we’re up to on our, what we expect to achieve in 2030, when the Glasgow summit is held. We will definitely do that. As I said, Australia is the most transparent country in the world when it comes to our reporting on emissions reductions. And, I'll be calling on the rest of the world to match our transparency. They should. One of the reasons it's so hard to compare Australia's strong performance against other countries is because you have to go back several years, because that's the latest data you can get from so many countries.

I think the reporting arrangements and the transparency that sits around emissions reduction is a key tool. Angus makes a very good point about what's been achieved on households and on soils. See Australian businesses, Australian farmers, Australian manufacturers, Australian miners, they're making the change now. It's happening. There's not a shop floor I walk into, a mine I go down in. There's not a farm I visit that is not already making changes. And a point I make, particularly to those overseas, that's one of the biggest movers in transforming how they move to a net zero business is our mining and resources industry, whether it's what Andrew Forrest is doing in Fortescue and his work in hydrogen or indeed what Rio and BHP are also doing in those areas. Our biggest miners are having the biggest performance outcomes in how they're transforming our businesses. Australian businesses, Australian farmers, Australian manufacturers are transforming what they're doing. Why? Because they get it. They get it and those Australians get it. They know where the world is heading and they know the changes that they need to make to be competitive in that world and to be successful in that world. Our policies are supporting that. The changes that they are making, our policies have been supporting. And that's why Australia has been able to reduce its emissions more than so many advanced economies around the world. 

Sorry, on the other matter. I was asked on the other matter, I have always said very clearly that in the suppression phase, lockdowns have to work. Vaccines certainly support it. And Delta is like nothing else we've seen and is a complete game changer. And I want to stress something I said yesterday. To get to Phase B when we go into seventy per cent of the country having been double dose vaccinated, the stronger we go into that phase, minimising the number of cases, you can't eliminate COVID. We all understand that and no one's seeking to do that. That is not any government's policy in this country. But minimising those cases is going to ensure that we go into the next phase a lot stronger. You know, Australians have made great sacrifices to be able to get us into the position we have been in. We are not going to squander that. And it's really important. That's why I say to my fellow Sydneysiders, it's important we stay home. It's important we make this lockdown work. It's important that we don't give up on it. It's important that we apply ourselves to it and make sure it works. And we will be giving every support we can to the New South Wales Government, whether it's in the work we're doing through COVID Assist or COVID Shield, getting additional vaccines into New South Wales to support that effort. As we've done in other states and territories, we'll give them every support. But the lockdown is important to suppress the virus. So when we get to the next phase, we go in stronger, not weaker. Too many Australians have done too much to put us in a strong position. We cannot squander it. 

JOURNALIST: You mention Andrew Forrest, he says that the report proves the human race is slowly cooking itself. Do you agree with him? And also, there are still people within the Coalition who don't believe in climate change or don't believe it's occurring to the extent that this report has outlined. Matt Canavan this morning said that the coal assumptions in the report are overstated and therefore the numbers can't be trusted. How do you bring people like that on board with your commitment to actually take action on this issue? 

PRIME MINISTER: The Government's policy is clear and the Government's position is very clear. We need to take action to address climate change and are. It's also the Government's job, in fact, it's everybody in this building's job to take all Australians forward with us on this. There are many Australians right across the country, whether they live in our suburbs or in regional areas, who have great anxieties about these changes and what it means for them. Will they have a job? Will their kids have a job? Will their electricity prices go up? They have real serious concerns about that. And we can't be flippant about those or dismiss them. I don't. I take them very seriously. And that's why the sensible, responsible action that our Government is taking in having a plan to achieve these things and explaining it to Australians, as I did before the last election on our 2030 commitments and we'll continue to do, is so important because we're a very big country. The pressures on Australians are different right across the country and we can't be blind to them. We need to be open to them and we need to explain how the policies we're putting in place is protecting them and their future, their jobs, but also their future. And that's what our policies are designed to achieve. Greg. 

JOURNALIST: You've just said that in response to Kieran, that you will take an updated projections, I suppose to 2030, to Glasgow. 

PRIME MINISTER: Nothing new about that. 

JOURNALIST: But are you considering updating the formal 2030 target or taking a 2035 target to Glasgow, or is that, are medium term targets off the table for that conference? 

PRIME MINISTER: We will meet and beat our targets and we will update what we expect to achieve by 2030, as we always do. And we will make that very clear about what Australia is achieving and what we intend to achieve. And we'll make further statements about that between now and that summit. But Angus, did you want to add to that? 

THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Yeah, that's exactly right PM. The point I would make is that we are already on track to meet and beat our 2030 targets. We update our projections every year. We have an extraordinary track record of beating those projections and we'll update them this year, as we always do. 

JOURNALIST: When you flagged net zero by 2050 at the Press Club earlier this year, you said agriculture would be exempt from the heavy lifting because they'd already done enough of the burden with Kyoto. 

PRIME MINISTER: That’s exactly what I said Phil, I mean, what I've said is that I'm not going to allow regional Australians to carry the burden for the country. I'm not. I'm going to find ways to achieve these goals, which takes the agricultural industry forward that I haven't made any comments about exemptions or any things like that. 

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] make the sacrifice? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't want other Australians to have to do that, not just in regional areas. I want us to have a way forward that enables our economy to grow and we continue to reduce our emissions and we transform our economy for the simple reason that we are very aware of the risks that are set out in the IPCC report. But I'm also very aware of the significant changes that are happening in the global economy. I mean, financiers are already making decisions regardless of governments about this. I want to make sure that Australian companies can get loans. I want to make sure that Australians can access finance. I want to make sure that our banks will finance into the future so they can provide the incredible support that they provide to Australian buying homes and all of these things. The world economy is changing. That's just a fact. And Australians, we need to continue to change with it to remain competitive. And this issue is clearly directing a lot of that change. And we're conscious of it. And that's why we're seeking to position Australia to be successful in it, to address the very real and environmental risks that are set out in these reports, but also to ensure Australia is economically competitive. And I want our neighbours to be competitive, too. I want Indonesia to be competitive. I want Vietnam to be competitive, because these are our trading partners. And the more successful Indonesia is and other countries in our region, well, the more successful Australia will be because we are trading nation with them and we have excellent trading arrangements and agreements with them. But yep sure, sorry Phil. 

JOURNALIST: You said in your opening remarks you don't want regional Australia to bear the burden. Is that a shift from what you said earlier in the year? Are you going broader than just agriculture? 

PRIME MINISTER: No. I mean, what I'm saying today is what I've been consistently saying for a very long time. Australia under my Government will have a plan to achieve what we're setting out and we will be transparent with Australians about what it means. I don't make blank cheque commitments. I'll leave that to others. You know, blank cheque commitments you always end up paying for and you always end up paying for it in higher taxes. That's what the alternative approach is. That's not my approach. That's never been my approach. My approach is finding practical solutions to what are very practical problems. And that practical problem is ensuring that the technology that works here needs to work in other parts of the world and we're positioning Australia to be in the forefront of that. And our hydrogen strategy, our carbon capture and storage, our soil carbon, all of these initiatives are about positioning Australia to be successful in that world. Chris. 

JOURNALIST: Are you saying that when we get to Glasgow at the end of this year, that the dispensation that's been given to China should end? 

PRIME MINISTER: What I'm saying is that focusing on political solutions won't solve this problem. Focusing on technology solutions will. And technology needs to work and be competitive with the fossil fuels alternatives in developing countries. That must be our goal. That's what we must invest in because otherwise we won't achieve it. The technologies won't be taken up, commitments will be made and commitments won't be met. We've seen that before, not from Australia, I hasten to add. But commitments are only as good as the plan that backs them in and the technology that makes it work. So the most important thing is having the technology that makes it work. Now both Angus and I have had, you know, very, very useful and positive discussions and agreements that we've been able to put in place. And Angus, you may wish to refer to those in the discussions you've been directly having. I mean, John Kerry put it best. He put it best when he said "if China went to zero tomorrow with the United States, we would still have a problem. So every country has to come to the table. This is the single biggest multilateral global negotiation the world has ever known. I agree with that. He said that if America reduced its emissions to zero and China kept going where it was, well, we wouldn't make a lick of difference, basically. And that's the point. We need a solution that addresses the real commercial challenges of developing countries to solve this problem. So it's not about punishment. It's not about politics. It's about technology and technology that works in countries that need it to transform their economies, provide jobs and livelihoods for people to ensure that they can prosper as we have in advanced countries like ours. I recognise that equity issue. I think it's a very real issue. But the thing that solves it is not political commitments. It's real technology. That works on the ground. Kath.

JOURNALIST: Will you embrace the target of net zero by 2050 and will you go to Glasgow?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm asking Kath. Kath had her hand up.

JOURNALIST: I had a question but a different one. Just two things. I'll have another go on 2030, because the Minister says you're taking projections to Glasgow. You're saying you'll take projections to Glasgow and we might get back to you on something else. So what is it? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I just said I'll make further comments about this before Glasgow and we update our commitments every year so if there's anything further to say at that time, we'll say it at that time.

JOURNALIST: And if I may, if I may, you've dwelled a lot in your comments today, in your comments up to today, about the cost of action. And you're not going to allow regional communities to shoulder the cost of action etc, etc. The point of the IPCC report is the cost of inaction. Will any government modelling that you're currently undertaking to put costs in front of people also include a cost of inaction? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the need to take action is informed by that very point. By that very point. The cost of inaction globally is very clear in what the IPCC report sets out today. The government needs no further motivation about the need to take action. That's why we're taking it. That's why we've invested $20 billion over the next 10 years and the technology that transforms this. So it's quite clear that my government understands the need to take action because of the broader cost. I want to be very clear though, that there is not a direct correlation between the action that Australia takes and the temperature in Australia. I don't think anyone is suggesting that. The temperature in Australia is determined by what's happening all over the world, we all understand that. But Australia has to be part of that. Australia is part of that. Australia is performing as part of that. And Australia will continue to perform and we will continue to do more and more and more. And I'm going to seek to take the entire country with us on that to ensure that, that all Australians have a future wherever they live today. And they're able to do that based on an economic and environmental plan that helps them achieve that which we're transparent about and we're very clear with Australians about. We've got time for one more. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you mentioned the importance of minimising cases before entering Phase B. With 350 cases in New South Wales today, do you have confidence that the state can get back to around zero cases, or is Delta too widespread? And you also said you want Australians to make it to Christmas and be around the table. Are you willing to take greater control under the Biosecurity Act to contain the outbreak, such as sending in the ADF? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well the ADF are already in. The ADF are in at the direction of the lawful authorities in New South Wales. I would caution you against over assuming about what the powers of the Biosecurity Act do. The ADF can be there and are there and they are most effective when they're operating under the lawful direction of the state government authorities, the police, because they are the sworn officers. And that's what the ADF are doing right now. And I'm very pleased that the New South Wales Government took up that invitation for the ADF to be there, as indeed Premier Andrews did last year. And they did a great job in assisting with the success ultimately of the lockdown in Victoria. And so that's why they're there and that's why we're very pleased that we're able to make that assistance available to them. What I've said is Delta makes getting to that zero cases infectious in the community incredibly difficult. I don't doubt that for a second. And far less likely than it was under previous strains of the virus, which that was able to be achieved without lockdowns, which New South Wales did achieve without lockdowns, I hasten to add.

But what I do think remains really important in New South Wales and not just for those in Sydney, but for the rest of the country, the whole country, Australians have worked so hard to get us to the situation we're in right now where we have been able to keep the cases relatively low compared to the rest of the world. We have one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, and we want to be able to continue to achieve that as best as we possibly can as we continue through the suppression phase. And that's why there aren't any shortcuts to lockdowns. You've got to make them work as best as you possibly can. So in Sydney, please stay home unless you really have an urgent need to go and do something outside the house. For other states that are going through similar lockdowns now, then please do the same thing because we need to keep those cases low. I want to get there by Christmas, but I want everyone around the table at Christmas. Thank you very much.