June 2021

Climate Change

It's a pleasure to talk on this MPI and address the matter that those opposite have raised, of the government's alleged failure to act on addressing the climate emergency. Let's look at our record. The Clean Energy Regulator estimates that last year Australia installed a record 7,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. That beats by 11 per cent the figure for 2019 of 6.3 gigawatts or 6,300 megawatts, which was itself a record. It means that one in four Australian households now has solar, one of the highest uptakes in the world. Australia's deployment of wind and solar renewable energy is happening at 10 times the rate of the global average, four times the rate of the US and the EU.

In the first weeks of 2020, well over a year ago, we ticked past 25 gigawatts of wind and solar generation, meaning we're one of only three countries in the world to have more than one kilowatt per capita of renewable energy generation capacity. We've now got more solar capacity per person than any country in the world. We've got more solar and wind capacity than nearly every country in the world, and nearly 40 per cent of this capacity has been installed in the past two years.

The integrated system plan published by the Australian Energy Market Operator, AEMO, predicted renewable energy will supply as much as 90 per cent of the national energy market by 2035. They said in that report:

On certain measures, the rate of change in Australia is the fastest of any country in the world.

What is driving this transition? It's being driven by the affordability and availability of new technology, by consumer appetite and by investor sentiment. The progress here is not linear, it's exponential. We've seen this in the continued fall in our emissions.

In the year to December 2020, our CO2-equivalent emissions were 499 million tonnes. That's five per cent lower or 26.1 million tonnes less than in 2019, the equivalent of taking half our national fleet of light vehicles off the road entirely. It's also 20.1 per cent lower than our 2005 levels, the baseline for our 2030 Paris Agreement target. Those opposite were saying Australia does not stack up well internationally. Let's compare what we've achieved. The OECD's reduction in emissions, across the average OECD over the same period, is nine per cent. New Zealand's is four per cent. Canada's is less than one per cent. The United States' is 10 per cent. Australia's is 20.1 per cent. The G20 over the same period, 2005, increased their emissions on average.

Just this past week the Prime Minister has been engaging with our foreign partners to act on climate. In Singapore, on 10 June, he and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee established a $30-million partnership to accelerate the deployment of low-emissions fuels and technology, such as clean hydrogen, to reduce emissions in maritime and port operations. On 13 June, in the UK, the Prime Minister and Japan's Prime Minister Suga announced the Japan-Australia partnership on decarbonisation through technology, which will provide for lower emission LNG production, transport and use; clean fuel ammonia; clean hydrogen; low-emission steel and iron ore; and carbon capture utilisation and storage. That same week, just a few days ago, with the German leader, Chancellor Merkel, the Prime Minister announced the Australia-Germany partnership initiative on hydrogen, which will, amongst other things, establish the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator, funded with up to A$50 million, and industry-to-industry cooperation on hydrogen hubs. All these agreements, with Germany, with Singapore, with Japan, are part of the government's half-a-billion-dollar commitment to build new international technology partnerships.

The clean energy future for Australia is also, I believe, a bright jobs future. The Australian hydrogen industry could generate more than 8,000 jobs and deliver over $11 billion in additional GDP by 2050. The clean steel and clean aluminium industry could, similarly, generate thousands of new jobs and industries for Australia. But here's the irony: the disallowance motion that those opposite moved yesterday would have prevented ARENA from supporting low-emissions technology. It would have prevented ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, from supporting low-emissions technology. It would have prevented ARENA from supporting things like energy efficiency, low-emissions transport on electric vehicles, all forms of clean hydrogen, soil carbon, technologies that reduce emissions from aluminium and steel, carbon capture technologies, including carbon capture and storage.

The Business Council of Australia supports ARENA for doing this. The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network supports ARENA for doing this. The Investor Group on Climate Change supports ARENA for doing this, but not Labor. In the Sydney Morning Herald today there are reports that Rio Tinto was pushing into green aluminium and that the trial was being backed by the federal government with an injection of $600,000 into a trial of technology to help remove emissions from the carbon intensive production process. Well, if Labor had succeeded in passing that disallowance motion yesterday, that trial could not proceed. You cannot, in the same breath, talk about a crisis but not be willing to engage with the solutions.