Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s clean energy export plan
Scott Morrison is preparing an integrated climate change plan to more swiftly transition Australia’s energy exports from fossil fuels towards new low emissions technologies and cleaner energy sources to avoid the nation being left behind as the world moves towards a net zero future.
Ahead of the upcoming Glasgow climate summit where he is under pressure to adopt a net-zero emissions target by 2050, the Prime Minister told The Australian he was advocating for climate action involving realistic “plans, not just a number and a date”.
In Washington on Friday at the first leaders’ meeting of the new Quad partnership there was agreement for the members to help reach net-zero carbon emissions “preferably by 2050” and make the 26th climate change summit in Scotland a success.
Australia, the US, Japan and India also agreed to offer an enhanced declaration on cutting carbon emissions by updating or committing to “ambitious NDCs (nationally determined contributions)” and “raise global ambition, including reaching out to key stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Asked if he would commit to a specific climate target, Mr Morrison told The Australian: “I can assure you we will have a plan.”
“People will know what we will be doing and what that will be achieving. We believe that will address what they would like to be achieved.”
Mr Morrison was also hopeful his plan could receive bipartisan support, arguing “perhaps this would be a matter on which we might even see consensus”.
“I can’t control what Labor will do, but what we are seeking to do is bring everybody around the plan that people can agree with and say that’s a good way forward,” he said.
“What I am pushing for globally is that commitments are not enough.
“Developing countries are saying they are not opposed to a commitment but they need to know how they are going to achieve it and what is that going to mean for their country.”
Mr Morrison told The Australian his new climate plan would aim to achieve two objectives: the “environmental goal” of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the “economic prize” of enmeshing Australian new energy technology in Asia’s development.
A net-zero-by-2050 goal would need approval from the Liberals’ coalition partner, with Nationals leader and Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Sunday saying there were “discussions happening” and it would be “absurd to think that people are not having discussions”.
“Ultimately we have to know the process as well,” he told the ABC. “We look at it through the eyes of making sure there is not an unreasonable loss of jobs or any loss of jobs in regional areas.”
But Anthony Albanese lashed the Nationals for being a major “roadblock” to Australia achieving net zero by 2050, arguing the Coalition was “completely divided when it comes to climate change.”
Sounding a major warning ahead of the Glasgow conference, Mr Morrison said Australia’s lucrative leading role in supplying energy resources to Asia was not going to last and a fundamental transformation was needed.
“We have always been the primary exporter of energy into this region. Now that is going to change. And we need to make sure we leap from one lily pad to the next in making that change,” he said. “The generational change in your energy economy is the main game and I have a plan.”
Mr Morrison argued the transition to a low emissions economy had to be managed so “things keep running, things stay open, things keep getting dug out of the ground for some considerable time, you have to keep making stuff, you have to keep eating things and the world needs food”.
Echoing warnings last week from Josh Frydenberg that Australia risked losing investment if it was seen as lagging on climate change, Mr Morrison said: “The forces that are driving this change at a global level are not just the environmental but the economic and financial”.
Liberal MPs, banks and business leaders are urging the government to embrace net-zero emissions by 2050 and raise ambitions on 2030 targets, with 70 former diplomats joining the push on Monday by signing an open letter to Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce pushing for “urgent action.”
In his address to the UN General Assembly, Mr Morrison framed Australia as a reliable partner in the transition to a clean energy future and said his government would release its long term emissions reduction strategy ahead of the Glasgow summit.
“We know the world is transitioning to a new energy economy,” he said. “It’s no longer about if, or even when for that matter. It’s about how. And the answer, as history has shown us time and time again, is technology — practical, scalable and commercially viable technologies.”
US President Joe Biden publicly backed Mr Morrison’s “global approach” to climate change last week and the US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, praised his “leadership on climate change”.
Mr Morrison said he was critical of proposals to give assistance to developing nations without securing anything in return.
“They want to develop and we want them to develop with our credible clean energy technology and supply chains which they can be part of,” he said. “There’s not just the advantage of an environmental goal but also the economic prize here of the integration of our clean energy technology with their economies.”
“My argument at the Quad was I don’t believe the developing world has any great resistance to this new energy economy transition. They just want to be shown how and be helped to do it.”
The Quad leaders also committed to clean-up the supply chains for crucial minerals used in modern technology to help lower carbon emissions, with Mr Morrison condemning the “great project” of net-zero emissions built on the back of “children in mines.”
At the Quad meeting, Mr Morrison argued for regulators “to ensure the credibility of carbon credit schemes to provide confidence for companies who are buying credits that those credits are real and not rubbish”.
Mr Morrison said it had been “a good week” in New York and Washington and rejected suggestions from Labor he would not be able to work with Mr Biden because of different policies on climate change and that he had been “too close” to Donald Trump.
The Treasurer also said on Sunday OECD secretary-general Mathias Cormann wrote to G20 finance ministers in early August “seeking views on a potential new initiative to ‘improve the measurement and benchmarking of countries’ climate mitigation policies’.”
The Treasurer said Mr Cormann recognised a “diversity of approaches to mitigation” including “support for technological change and regulatory approaches”.
“The Australian government is working constructively and cooperatively with international partners on the issue of climate change and is taking active steps to reduce our emissions through technology and taxes,” he said.