Interview with Rebecca Levingston, ABC Radio Brisbane Mornings

Rebecca Levingston
Net zero carbon emissions

Rebecca Levingston: Tim Wilson is the Assistant Minister to the Minister for Energy, Industry and Emissions Reduction. Tim Wilson, good morning.

Tim Wilson: Good morning!

Rebecca Levingston: What changes for my listeners as a result of this plan?

Tim Wilson: Well, this plan, firstly, the big change is a clear commitment to Net Zero by 2050, backed up with the first comprehensive economy wide plan to achieve it. Now there's new things in the plan, like our focus on ultra low cost solar PV and what that can do for households to be part of the solution. But it's also a plan that's built on pillars of things that have previously been announced in backing industry to do its job. Government to do its job. And households to do its job as well. The Prime Minister also announced yesterday there'll be further announcements that are going to come in the coming months, which will further outline how we're going to do exciting things in fuels, in energy generation. And of course, in how we can be backing Australian jobs and growing the Australian economy, too.

Rebecca Levingston: But there's no new laws or mandates, no short term target changes are there. Why not?

Tim Wilson: What we have in the plan is a clear sign about the trajectory of emissions before the last election, we took a position where Australia would have a 26 to 28 per cent target by 2030 to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The updated projections that were in the plan showed that we're not just meeting that target, we're not just feeding it, we're smashing it. And the upward revised projections are now 35%, and that's off the back of the exact policies we're implementing that utilize technology as a solution, not imposing new taxes because we can cut emissions and grow the Australian economy at the same time.

Rebecca Levingston: So why if we're, you know, smashing and beating and everyone's familiar with that sort of language, they're also hearing this United Nations report today that says the world is on track to warm by 2.7 degrees based on the targets that countries are agreeing to. Now that seems to fly in the face of the confident language that you and the Prime Minister are using. Can you understand why that's confusing for people?

Tim Wilson: I can understand why. If you look at Australia in isolation, you might think all the solutions reside here, but where 1% of global emissions. And what we want to be is part of a solution not just for cutting Australia's emissions, but helping other countries, particularly poorer countries, to cut their emissions too. And that's the strategy we're taking, and that's the power of technology, is that it's able to be adopted to ensure that countries continue to be able to economically grow while cutting their emissions. Because we need the 99% of the world, makes up the rest of the 99% of other emissions to cut theirs to stop the challenges of global warming. So we're going to be part of delivering it in Australian way and helping other countries deliver it in their way.

Rebecca Levingston: You're listening to Tim Wilson, the Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction. This is ABC Radio Brisbane and my name's Rebecca Livingston. Tim, why on Australia's climate scientists convinced by your plan?

Tim Wilson: Well, that's a very broad statement. There are these plans have been developed looking at the sort of technologies that will work. And we've consulted, of course, in the past with people like the former chief scientist Alan Finkel, who understands that technology is the solution to be able to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions and frankly, to help out other countries, be are able to do the same. And so we have to take a comprehensive economy wide, society wide, environment wide approach that takes everybody with us because we want to do this in Australian way that backs Australian jobs, but also cleans our environment.

Rebecca Levingston: You mentioned Alan Finkel, the former chief scientist, does the current Chief Scientist back this plan?

Tim Wilson: I haven't had a conversation with the current Chief Scientist, but what we know is that this plant is built on principles, focused on how we're going to empower businesses and households to be part of the solution because that's the only way we're going to get to Net Zero. It's not just a job for government. It's not just a job for households. It's not just a job for industry, it's a job for all of us. And that's the focus we're taking.

Rebecca Levingston: So who were the scientists at the table with you developing this plan?

Tim Wilson: Well, this this plan came out of the Cabinet Room and respectfully, I'm not in the Cabinet Room, but it's been had so much input from lots of different parts of the community to make sure that that conversation is had and that everybody's a participant in it. And of course, the other scientists in the department, there are signs in Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources who are part of this journey. Of course, there are economists there. There's, of course, the government itself. So this is not just this is this is not just a plan that's based on isolated or siloed approach with a single focus. It's how do we take the entire Australian community with us?

Rebecca Levingston: Sure. And you would know that to take the Australian community with you, you have to have them trust you. And fundamentally, the coalition does have a credibility challenge on climate policy from the Prime Minister wielding coal in parliament, the Deputy Prime Minister on the record pointing to a higher power in the sky that determines the way of the world. I mean, Keith Pitt was elevated this week to cabinet. He can't seem to grasp the concept of batteries in relation to solar power. So. Does the government see climate change as an urgent existential threat? or

Tim Wilson: Is that a question or an editorial?

Rebecca Levingston: My question is, does the government see climate change as an urgent existential threat?

Tim Wilson: 100%. That's why we actually released Australia's first economy wide comprehensive plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions to Net Zero by 2050.

Rebecca Levingston: Which, just to circle back Tim to some of the points that you know you've agreed on, i.e. the United Nations assessment that the world is on track to 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming. The 2050 target doesn't appear to be what's required. In fact, greater action before 2030 seems to be what's required. So that's at odds with the idea that the Government does see climate change as an urgent existential threat.

Tim Wilson: Well, it politely that's false. You just need to look at the updated projections that were released yesterday, and we had a 26 to 28%  target. We're meeting, we're building and we're going to smash that target. But what we know is that Australia alone can't solve this problem. So we want to be part of the global solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. China's emissions since 2005, while ours are down now 20%, nearly 21% China's have gone up 65%.

Tim Wilson: They are a substantial increase in emitters. We know that the OECD, the average emissions reduction has only been 7% since 2005. Ours is 21%, so we're leading the way and we're actually providing a pathway to get other countries to cut their emissions too.  Based on the approach that embraces technology that enables households, businesses, industry and, of course, government to be part of the solution rather than measuring everything based on intent.

Rebecca Levingston: Again, you say Australia's leading the way, but it doesn't seem to be supported by those with scientific, apolitical expertise. So does. The CSIRO, for example, backed this plan. You're not sure about the chief scientist. Does the CSIRO back this plan as it's?

Tim Wilson: I haven't had these conversations there at a cabinet level, but I'm sorry you're making. You're making a series of assertions, which I actually think as a journalist are highly contestable, such as the fact that some people are apolitical. But look at your choice. What we're doing is measuring our policy based on I'm going to finish


Tim Wilson: I just gave you a classic example. The OECD average emission reduction is 7%. The OECD average emissions reduction has been 7% since 2005, we're times three that at 21%. And if you go on the modelling projections, we're going to not just meet and beat our targets, we're going to smash them. And we're not just going to help decarbonise Australia and get a Net Zero by 2050 outcome.

With the plan, we're aiding other countries to be able to do the same because measuring climate policy just on good intent doesn't get you to where you need to get to. The planet doesn't care about good intent. What the planet cares about is outcomes, and that's what we're delivering, and we're exceeding most other countries on Earth, including comparable countries. New Zealand has only cut its emissions by 4%. They can have all the good intent. They're not delivering the outcomes.

Rebecca Levingston: Sure. And I think people would agree with you on that. I guess what I'm trying to come back to is that. Politicians repeating quite complicated figures and detail around this is questioned by a lot of people, so I'm trying to see, I guess, what I'm essentially saying to you is who is a scientist that I can talk to, who would agree with you on these assertions? Because what I can see at the moment is that there are plenty of climate scientists who question the assertions that you're making.

Tim Wilson: Well, I hope they question the plan and they go through its 130 page comprehensive plan that we've released publicly. If you want to read it, it's available at But it's not just a science plan, it's an economy plan, it's a jobs plan, and it's a plan to take the entire Australian community with this us. Now if those scientists understand the challenge of climate change, they'll also understand that Australia is 1% of global emissions, so we need other countries to take action and to follow our lead. And I don't think that these numbers are challenging the. The OECD average of emissions reductions 7%, we're going to beat that by a factor of three at 21% by 2030. That's our current target. We're going to amplify that up to 35% by 2030. So in terms of delivery, and that was what was released yesterday. So we're actually leading the way, but it's not just up to Australia. And that's why it's so important to have a comprehensive economy wide plan for delivery.

Rebecca Levingston: Let me put you the quote from Mike Cannon-Brookes this morning who is interested in making money. Certainly, he's a billionaire. He's also very interested in climate action, he says. "I've read all 129 pages of the 2050 Net Zero plan. I understand technology damn well. This isn't a technology driven approach. It's inaction, misdirection and avoiding choices."

Tim Wilson: Well, that Mr Cannon-Brookes is entitled to his view, and I get that he's in this to make a buck, and that's one of the key focuses of our approach is we want to save the planet and we want to make sure that our country can make a buck.

But what we're not going to do is burn the village to save it. We're going to build new industries. So as there's diminishing interest in traditional fossil fuels and the like, and that we have the new sectors that are able to build the future of the Australian economy because we want to make sure that we have reliable and affordable power. We want to make sure we have jobs and we want to make sure that we're making a huge contribution in terms of cutting our emissions. But we need the rest of the world to follow our lead.

Rebecca Levingston: On diminishing fossil fuels. What is the phase out timeframe site for coal fired power stations, of which, you know, there are many in Queensland?

Tim Wilson: Well, firstly, coal fired power stations are ultimately up to state governments, but we've got a lot of the projection shows that many of them are going to come off in the next few years, particularly in states like New South Wales over the next decade. But of course, the coal fired power stations in Queensland are owned by the state government, and so that will be a decision for them.

Rebecca Levingston: OK, but that's that's a pretty short timeframe as well, a few years within the next decade.

Tim Wilson: Well, that's a relatively short decade, but timeframe, but it ultimately depends on the decisions, how much you know your state government wants to keep investing in the operations of these power plants and whether they see value in them. And of course, what we're doing in the meantime is investing in the technology, so that there's alternative sources of energy. And this morning, I was out at a hydrogen fuel station in Canberra, which is going to be part of the transport solutions of energy generation and transportable energy generation. We're going to see the same in the role hydrogen has in traditional electricity. So that's why we're getting on with the job and building the future of Australia because we want to make sure Australians have jobs. We cut our emissions and we provide a pathway for other countries to follow our lead.

Rebecca Levingston: The National Farmers Federation want a little bit more, though, too. They want the protections for the agriculture sector to be made public. When will that happen?

Tim Wilson: Well, the Prime Minister has made it clear that there will be a lot more announcements to come and many, many exciting announcements. And so what's outlined. The plan was released yesterday, and it's a 130 page comprehensive economy wide plan, and I recommend everybody going rate at

Rebecca Levingston: Really appreciate your time this morning. Tim Wilson, thanks so much.

Tim Wilson: Pleasure.