TUESDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2015
SUBJECT/S: Paris COP21; Labor positive plan to tackle climate change
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good evening everyone, it's quite a privilege to be here as the world grapples with climate change and come to an agreement that will see the world collectively move to try and restrict global warming with in two degrees Celsius. Labor announced on Friday its policies; we want to be a net zero carbons emission economy by 2050. We're very committed to the science which says that we need to do anything we can to restrain global warming within two Celsius degrees because see the dreadful economic consequences of climate change from rising sea levels to more extreme weather events, to a massive increase in the cost to the Australian economy through drought and other events. That's why Labor said that we would consult on a base line of a 45 per cent reduction by 2030 on 2005 carbon emission levels. We picked the baseline of 45 per cent because it's based upon the work of the climate change authority, an independent government authority who said that this is what should be the proposed target and Labor will consult over the next four months with industry, with the community in terms of the possibility of implementing those targets of emission reduction levels. Today we have heard the Government basically play it safe. They're doing very little. I think there's a lot of people who hoped that when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott there would be a change in terms of Australia taking more seriously the efforts to challenge the harmful effects of climate change. What we see today is the Government using accounting tricks of shifting money around from within the aid budget but we see that politics is triumphing in terms of the Government's response on climate change and we don't see Australia taking climate change as seriously as other nations are. We've seen in Canada they changed a Prime Minister and they've changed their climate policies. In Australia, all we did was change our Prime Minister, not our climate policies. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What should they have done?
SHORTEN: The Canadians or the Australians?
JOURNALIST: The Australians.
SHORTEN: In terms of Federal Government policy, I think that the Government needs to embrace an emissions trading scheme. I think we need to finally admit that the direct action policies of Tony Abbott are not going to achieve even what the Government says it's going to achieve on climate reductions. Labor believes that we can have an emissions trading scheme which is internationally linked which will deliver meaningful change in climate policy without the Government's direct action scheme which isn’t effective and has been discredited by the experts.
JOURNALIST: Should they have a tougher 2020 target?
SHORTEN: Well, the whole aim of this conference is to move beyond Kyoto. Today I understand that the Prime Minister has just simply said there going to implement the second stage of Kyoto. The point of that is when I've been talking to other leaders from around the world, climate experts, business people, and indeed people from other countries that developed their policies. The whole point of the gathering is not to just do very little and just implement the second stage of Kyoto, it's to move beyond it. This should be a successful conference and I just don't want Australian to miss the boat. The difference between the Copenhagen conference and now is that you've got China very much on board working along with the United States, we've seen really significant improvements in renewable technologies, we’ve also had another five years of a warming planet. This conference should be a springboard towards the world acting. Australia has come here today though on its pretending and I think there would be a lot of Australians disappointed by the lack of action by the Federal Government.
JOURNALIST: There's been some pretty big cynics aren’t they, I mean people around the sidelines say that Australia is being regarding once again as a player, someone who is taking it seriously?
SHORTEN: Well, it’s a pretty low bar that the Australian Government has to measure up to at this conference. The fact of the matter is that what the Australian Government is saying is that we're not Tony Abbott. But the truth of the matter is we still have Tony Abbott's policies. You've seen the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in parliament defending keeping the 26-28 per cent target for carbon emission reductions. What has changed other than the Prime Minister in terms of Australia's climate change efforts? What we see is rebadging of money in the Aid Budget to go from one area to go into another area of climate change adaptation policies but nothing has really change. Australia's playing it safe, they're playing accounting games and in the meantime we've seen for instance the Canadians who as I said earlier in my opening, not only have they changed their Prime Minister but they're doubling the amount of money which they're putting into adaptation and climate funding programs globally, that's not the case in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Just on Kyoto II, how significant do you think it is because not all nations had ratified Kyoto II?
SHORTEN: Well, I think that it was, that's a pretty safe statement they've made it's not really setting the world on fire is it. As you move around the side lines as I know you're doing and talking to people, it's not really Australian leading is it? The thing about Australia is that we are capable of doing more than we are doing and today Malcolm Turnbull’s played it safe, he's keeping the right-wing of his own party happy. He is really basically with slightly different rhetoric implementing the substance of Tony Abbott's climate change policies, which were notorious around the world for not being serious.
JOURNALIST Do you really think though that Tony Abbott would've signed off on Kyoto II? Surely Malcolm Turnbull's gone further that he's predecessor would have or would have been game to take to the party room?
SHORTEN: Most Australian's if they were replacing Tony Abbott would have done more than Tony Abbott's done. Using Tony Abbott as your bench mark on serious climate change policy is not really setting much of a test is it? And Malcolm Turnbull needs to be honest with the Australian people, remember back in 2009 he said that he didn't want to lead a political party that wasn't serious about climate change, now he's doing exactly that.
JOURNALIST: But if you're saying that he's not doing enough, why won't you say that they should be having a tougher 2020 target? I mean that's what Kyoto II is about?
SHORTEN: Llisten it's fine that the Government's agreeing on the second stage of Kyoto, that's fine, but you all understand that the purpose of this conference is to come up with a global compact on climate change which goes beyond the Kyoto agreements. The game's moved beyond Kyoto and we've got an Australian Government talking about that. It’s as good as far as it goes, you know I acknowledge that, but what we all have to be honest about is that climate change requiring serious commitment to the science, that's why Labor's consulting on emissions reduction targets with industry. We're doing the work the Government should be doing. Everyone knows the Climate Change Authority chaired by Bernie Fraser, it proposed that if we wanted to be fair dinkum about doing our part on climate change you have to look at a baseline of between 45 per cent and 61 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Now we are consulting on that, Mark Butler my Shadow Minister will be chairing these consultations up till the end of March. But we also know that basically Malcolm Turnbull's turned up here with Tony Abbott's policies, and a tweak here and an accounting manoeuvre there, it is substantially the same as it was with Tony Abbott was still in charge.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's fair enough that the surplus of Kyoto II is essentially rolled over into the 2030 target? Is that fair enough, it seems to be within the rules?
SHORTEN: The announcement to be fair is as good as far as it goes. It’s just not very ambitious for Australia and what we should be doing when it comes to climate change. We see the economic consequences of climate change through more extreme weather events, through drought, through acidification of the world's oceans, through the bleaching of the coral on the Barrier Reef. We see it through a whole range of measures, the insurance industry's factoring in the cost of rising sea levels in terms of premiums, any study of Australia knows that if we allow global warming to continue at more than 2 degrees Celsius, the economic consequences for Australia, our own national interest becomes compromised. At the same time, the game really has moved beyond the Kyoto debate hasn't it? We've seen the unthinkable happen in the last 12 months, China and the United States working together in terms of meaningful action on climate change. By 2017 China will have a national emissions trading system and in Australia we're still arguing about things we were arguing about in 2009. I think there's a lot of people who genuinely hoped that when Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott, we would see a distinct change in terms of the pace of government action on climate change, and in fact we're just not seeing that.
JOURNALIST: Would you have signed on to this New Zealand initiative of banning subsidies for fossil fuels?
SHORTEN: Well I've seen the debate overnight where the National Party was rearing up against any speculation about going after the diesel fuel rebate, and Labor doesn't have a policy to scrap the diesel fuel rebate at all. What we think we need to do though on climate change is be doing a lot more than what the Government's currently doing. We've outlined that we'll have a look at building standards, vehicle emissions standards, that we're prioritising putting more investment into renewable energy, and we've said that by 2030 our goal is to have half of our energy mix from renewable energy. We would back in the market as being a way of allocating decisions in terms of climate change by having an emissions trading scheme, and we would internationally link it. These are all sensible measures which if you're fair dinkum about climate change will actually put Australia in a better position. We also see climate change as an economic opportunity if we handle it the right way. The world in now investing more in renewables than ever before. In the Asia Pacific region by 2030 it's estimated there'll be $2.5 trillion worth of investment; we want Australia to be the beneficiary of some of the new money and the new capital, and the news jobs and the new technology in renewable industry. I think Malcolm Turnbull does know that what a government says about the future is important to creating certainty for private sector investment. The truth of the matter is that I think the overwhelming feeling amongst - on the sidelines is it's good that Tony Abbott's gone but they'll be underwhelmed, and I think the verdict will be that we're substantially just carrying on with Tony Abbott's policies, except with a better salesman.
SHORTEN: In terms of the - no we don't want to get rid of the diesel fuel rebate.
JOURNALIST: When you say internationally linked ETS, is that to the UN offset market or the European Emissions Trading Scheme?
SHORTEN: We're interested to see how the Chinese market develops in particular, and we're going to consult about the best structure for an ETS going forward.
JOURNALIST: So you'd be considering a link to the Chinese market?
JOURNALIST: What would be a sensible amount of aid to aim for, for up to 2020? Turnbull today said he would seek $1 billion over 5 years from existing resources. What sort of numbers would you think would be reasonable?
SHORTEN: Well that's very important, your question and we haven't been able to get precision out of the Government yet, in terms of where this money is coming from. When Labor was last in power between 2010 and 2013 we allocated about $600 million, in terms of helping with climate change adaptation programs, and quite a substantial amount of that annually would go to the Pacific. In terms of what Malcolm Turnbull's proposed we need to understand, is it all just coming from existing aid programs, because if that's the case our concern is that Malcolm Turnbull may be wanting to put money into climate change, but if you're robbing money which was going into health expenditure in third world countries or education expenditure which was going into third world countries, are you really advancing the situation of developing countries. We'll finalise what we are proposing on aid before the next election, but what I understand to be the case here is that if the Government is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul, helping third world countries and Pacific Islands for instance deal with the effects of climate change, but decreasing the amount of funding which we're giving them to help them deal with infant mortality or to deal with education in primary schools in Pacific Island nations, it's not really helping overall, it's no net change. Thanks everyone.
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