Emissions reduction, renewable energy and the Paris climate pact were just some of the topics du jour at the National Press Club on Wednesday, as federal environment minister Greg Hunt and Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler duked it out over climate and environment policies past, present and future.
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On policies future – we’re trying to focus on tangibles here – it looks like both the Coalition and the ALP are planning to prioritise the development of solar thermal power generation in Port Augusta, where South Australia’s last coal power plant was recently shut down.
In response to a question about making funds available for such a project, Hunt said it would be the first order of business for the Coalition’s shiny new Clean Energy Innovation Fund, while Butler said the project would have a high priority in Labor’s proposed ARENA solar thermal funding round.
On the subject of nuclear power, Hunt said he was open to the idea for Australia, while Butler – who didn’t categorically rule it out – noted that the recent Royal Commission into the subject had found that it would not be economic.
On past policies, Hunt seems prepared to take a good sum of credit for the success of the December 2015 Paris climate talks, and the global pact they resulted in.
Hunt told the Press Club audience that Australia had played a “key brokering role, under Malcolm Turnbull, on his watch, in Paris.”
Not only that, he added, but the Turnbull government had also played an important role fostering the interests of the “small island states” in that agreement.
Presumably he’s not referring to that one time that the federal immigration minister Peter Dutton joked about rising sea levels just after the Pacific Islands Forum at which then-PM Tony Abbott rejected the pleas of low-lying Pacific island nations for a stronger stance on emissions and temperature rises.