Federal minster for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor was the focus of questioning during parliamentary Question Time on Tuesday, as the Labor opposition sought to underscore the minister’s poor track record of putting in place effective policies to actually reduce emissions.
Taylor faced a barrage of questions from the Labor opposition, pushing Taylor to concede that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have been rising, and seeking responses to suggestions coming from his own coalition ranks that Australia should pursue plans for nuclear power.
As has come to be expected, Taylor relied on his usual spin and obfuscation on Australia’s emissions figures, citing falls in Australian per capita emissions, and highlighting the contribution that the rapid increases in Australia’s natural gas production have had on emissions figures.
“We have seen again in the last year a reduction in emissions per capita in emissions intensity and in the electricity sector, and it is true of the absolute level there was a small increase in the last 12 months. That was driven entirely, entirely Mr Speaker, by a growth in LNG exports,” Taylor said.
Taylor was repeatedly warned by the speaker, Tony Smith, to provide answers relevant to the questions posed by Labor MPs, as the minister attempted to answer direct questions about Australia’s rising emissions by relying on his usual repertoire of spin and misinformation.
Data released the Department of the Environment and Energy has shown that Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased every year since the 2016.
The Federal Government’s emissions projections shows that Australia are also not on track to meet its 2030 emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement, and department officials have confirmed that there are no plans to introduce new policies to try and bridge the emissions reduction gap.
While the energy minister has been pointed to falling emissions per capita and per unit of GDP, the changes in these metrics have more to do with Australia’s growing population, and growing economy, than it has any relation to the state of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“It is true of the absolute level there was a small increase in the last 12 months. That was driven entirely, entirely Mr Speaker, by a growth in LNG exports,” Taylor conceded in Question Time.
“We are at the lowest levels of emissions per person in 29 years and they have been falling year on year, and it is true from year to year they bump up and down, and in the last year there is no doubt, there is no doubt that LNG exports have had an impact, have had an impact on our emissions,” Taylor added.
As Taylor did upon the last release of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory data, the federal energy minister claimed that Australia’s exports of liquified natural gas are reducing global emissions.
“In the last year our LNG exports reduced global emissions by up to 26% of our total emissions, because when you sell LNG up into China and Korea and Asia, even though there were the increased emissions from the extraction of that LNG, we see a reduction in global emissions,” Taylor said.
However, experts have questioned these claims, saying that it is almost certain that Australia’s LNG exports are leading to overall increases in global emissions.
Labor also pressed Taylor on the prospect of nuclear power being pursued in Australia, with Labor leaping on the suggestions from former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce that nuclear power should be provided for free to residents living within eye-sight of any potential nuclear power plant.
Taylor downplayed any chance that the current prohibition on nuclear power developments would be relaxed, but said that the Coalition kept an ‘open mind’ to any proposals around nuclear energy.
“We currently have a moratorium nuclear power generation in Australia, and the government has no plans to change that. Now we always approach these things with an open mind, but we do not have a plan to change the moratorium,” Taylor answered.
Taylor also resisted questions from the shadow minister for environment and water, Terri Butler, who sought information from Angus Taylor about his role and personal interests in the clearing of endangered grasslands in the Monaro region.
Taylor has faced claims that he interfered with investigations undertaken by his own department into illegal land clearing by a company that he is a part-owner, including having personally had meetings with department officials undertaking the investigation.
“I have been very clear on this, this was not a discussion about compliance action, it was a briefing from departmental officials on technical aspects of a revisedlisting under the EPBC Act. And the secretary of the department has made very clear, and I quote, I can be very clear that Minister Taylor has never raised the issue,” Taylor said.
Taylor was reluctant to confirm whether compliance officer involved in the investigation attended Taylor’s meeting with the department.