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Hunt hints at Turnbull climate change initiative in Paris talks

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Environment minister Greg Hunt has hinted that Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will make a significant announcement on the first day of the Paris climate talks later this month.

parisclimateTurnbull has been confirmed as one of 80 world leaders that will attend the first day of the summit, in hope that they can break any lingering political barriers and, hopefully, announce new initiatives beyond the country-by country pledges known as INDCs.

Hunt, interviewed at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in Shangai, said Turnbull will have some important things to say at the meeting.

“The Prime Minister will attend day one which is the leaders’ summit, and may have some very prospective and constructive things to propose on the day,” Hunt said.

Australia has been under pressure both domestically and on the international front to increase its emission reduction targets, which currently stand at 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels.

That is equivalent to 19 per cent below 2000 levels and is seen as the tail end of developed country initiatives, even though Hunt says this is “equal highest” among developed countries in emission reductions per capita.

Australia is being advised by it own Climate Change Authority to reach for targets between 40 and 60 per cent by 2030, and Pacific Island nations have called on Australia to show leadership, and take stronger action.

Although the current pledges are only seen strong enough to cap global warming at 2.7C, rather than the targeted 2.0C, more initiatives are expected. Overnight, France and China struck a deal that agrees on verification of targets, and mechanisms to raise ambition.

Turnbull, although seen as a climate change hawk in comparison to his predecessor Tony Abbott, has been hamstrung by promises he made to the party’s right wing not to change climate policies. However, there is a feeling that Turnbull will move as a Paris agreement takes shape.

One of those things might be a re-appraisal of the coal industry. Hunt was asked what measures, if any, Australia was adopting to remove coal-fired generation from the energy system, to allow room for more renewables – both large scale and rooftop solar.

Hunt said that coal-fired capacity had already reduced by around 17 per cent over the last five years, and it could extend to one third of installed coal fired generation by 2022 (when the likely closure of Liddell in NSW will add to already announced closures such as Wallerewang and Northern and Playford B, among others.

“So what we’ve seen is that as renewable energy increases there’s been a decrease in coal fired capacity through the market of about 17 per cent over the last five years,” he said.

“Our best estimates are that that’s likely to decrease by about a third from 2010 to 2022.┬áSo the very existence of the Renewable Energy Target is helping to bring that about.”

Hunt confirmed that he and foreign minister Julie Bishop will be in Paris. Hunt said he will lead the delegation in the first week of the talks, where much of the focus will be on the land sector, and Bishop will lead the second week.

“I will lead week one, which is a lot to do with the land sector, we’ll be taking forward a global rainforest recovery initiative.

“Julie Bishop, who is our Foreign Minister, will lead week two which is a lot to do with financing, which naturally falls within the Foreign Minister’s remit.”

Last week, it was reported that Australia had offered to co-chair the Green Climate Fund, a critical institution important to developing countries that Abbott had once dismissed – during the talks two years ago in Poland, when Australia sent no ministerial representative – as a Bob Brown bank, in reference to the former Greens leader.

 

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  • Pedro

    My guess….dig up more uranium, enrich uranium, offer WA 75 cents GST in the dollar to build a nuclear power plant.

    • ScottyWired

      I support the idea of nuclear power in Australia IF (and this is a big if) they don’t cut multi-million-dollar corners on safety measures and training and maintenance etc. Nuclear power is as safe as the people running it.

      Though in my personal opinion this isn’t a massive priority. If we were to use nuclear power we should wait a few years for reliable Generation IV reactor technology to mature so we can build something cutting-edge rather than a horribly inefficient design from the 60s (like most nuclear reactors). In the mean time we should be pushing renewables like wind and solar.

      • Jo

        I agree with you in a way. “wait a few years for reliable Generation IV and reactor technology to mature” (which means most likely never, there are heaps of problems with generation III reactors) And ” In the mean time we should be pushing renewables like wind and solar.”

        Once this is done, we won’t need nuclear anymore. The cost of renewable energy keeps falling while the cost of nuclear energy is increasing.

  • Rob

    The only way for energy consumers to avoid being ripped off into the future is to leave the grid altogether. This becomes more and more feasible as each day passes. Why on earth then would you commission a hugely expensive nuclear reactor that will cost consumers for decades and require maintaining the costly grid when there is a far safer alternative within reach.

  • trackdaze

    It is such a bind we find ourselves in with the carbon tax repeal.
    A sensible abbot govt would have come to power and said “look, its unlikely well get this carbon tax repealed but we can reduce the rate from 23 to 10 or maybe less. There done.

    Noe with the world likely to levy a tax one way or the other on carbon we have no way of efficiently providing for the most efficient manner to reduce it and transition away.

    I guess we get one by proxy with our coal and gas having a levy applied when imported to a country that has a carbon tax.

  • Ron Horgan

    I hope that Turnbull who claims to lead an agile Australia, will use the occasion to receive new information that requires him to strongly develop renewables.
    If this doesn’t happen he is little more than the acceptable face of a fossilized government. Perhaps a Labor-Green coalition next time?