Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cleared the air on his party’s position on the Paris climate agreement: We won’t be pulling out of it. Why? There is no need, because it will have precisely zero impact on business-as-usual in Australia.
In an interview with Sydney radio shock-jock Alan Jones and former Abbott advisor Peta Credlin on Sky News on Tuesday, Morrison reiterated that his government would not spend any new money on the global climate compact, but ruled out “ripping up” Australia’s part of the deal.
Australia, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, has committed to reduce its total emissions to 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and pitch for zero net emissions by 2050.
As ClimateWorks’ has pointed out, this should be an easy task; firstly because the 2030 target is laughably low, and second because of the huge potential to decarbonise the national electricity market with cheap renewables, combined with off-the-shelf firming technology.
In fact, says ClimateWorks, Australia has three times the potential needed to reach its 2030 target. But the Coalition government has chosen to take the low road.
And that is essentially what the Prime Minister confirmed in his interview on Sky News.
“I was at that cabinet meeting (in 2013), and I recall that we set that target at the middle of the pack, on something that was very achievable, and that wouldn’t have a material impact on electricity prices,” he said.
“And that actually hasn’t changed.”
At this point, Morrison shifted the conversation to the federal Labor Party’s proposed 45 per cent emissions reduction target, which he noted would change things – and in particular, drive up electricity prices.
And then he invoked the original Coalition climate bogeyman: A University of Wollongong study, he said, had found that a 45 per cent emissions reduction target was “the equivalent of a carbon tax three times the size of the one we got rid of!”
But it was when Morrison was asked by Credlin, what was to be gained by staying in the Paris deal, that the cynicism really shone through.
“Well, there are very important relationships we have in our Pacific region that you would be very well aware of. You’d be very well aware of the strategic significance of those relationships, Peta,” he said.
“The most recent Pacific Islands Forum, I think, highlighted just how important … the commitments we have made are to our neighbours in the region.”
True enough. But here’s what our neighbours think of our commitments…
“I would hope that Australia would, again, rethink its policies to energy and move away from the coal industry,” said Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga in an interview just last week with ABC Radio’ Pacifc Beat program.
“Of course I appreciate it’s a new structure of government… and I only pray that the goodwill that is unfolding under the new set-up of the government of Australia would (deliver) more responsible policies.
“There is no point of talking about sustainable development, ODA or development assistance, if we couldn’t fix the problem of climate change. We don’t need it if we were … to continue to allow burning of coal to (emit) carbon into the atmosphere. We don’t need that.”
Which brings us to the topic of energy – and that’s where things got really confusing in the Sky News interview.
Jones: “How much longer are you going to continue subsidising renewable energies, and when are we going to get an affirmation that our energy future relies on coal-fired power, and nuclear power, which is illegal in this country?”
Morrison: “Well it’s all forms of reliable power that our future for energy depends upon, and we can’t run an energy system that relies on intermittent power sources like wind and solar. Look they form part of the mix, but they’re never going to be what keeps the lights on.
“There’s increasing investment going into these areas, and the subsidies run out in a couple of years, under the program that we affirmed some years back, and those subsidies run out, because you don’t need them any more because a lot of those technologies … well they stand up on their own two feet.
And then, on keeping coal in the system:
“What (federal energy minister) Angus (Taylor) is working on as we speak … he’s working from the ACCC report that I commissioned when I was Treasurer, which showed that we needed to have a better investment framework for reliable – what I call “fair dinkum” power – and there was a whole range of recommendations.
“But one in particular which looked at ensuring that we were guaranteeing the takeout price on investments in reliable power, so that the finance could come so those projects would stack up.
“We just want to see projects stack up, we don’t want to go round taking money from tax payers and putting up tax… because that’s a false economy.”
“There are a range of things we’ve got to invest in…
“See, the source of (generation) doesn’t really bother me. What matters is that it’s reliable, it can be contracted, it can be priced at lower that what we’re getting currently, cos that’s what brings peoples’ power prices down.
“I’m not too much into an ideological debate about from what source it comes. I just want to make sure it turns up and brings people power prices down.”
So to sum up:
– Not bothered about climate change. Happy to do the bare minimum so as to not upset strategic Pacific relationships, Alan Jones, or the Coalition right wing – ELECTRICITY PRICES!
– Not into ideological debate about energy, as long as it’s “fair dinkum” and doesn’t upset Alan Jones or the Coalition right wing.
– Not going to subsidise renewables after the RET and SRES end – because they are now able to stand on their own two feet economically. But willing to legislate to help coal “stack up,” because, fair dinkum.
– Not willing to link electricity to climate, because, well that’s just too hard and scary and CARBON TAX!