ABC QUEENSLAND DRIVE
MONDAY, 1 APRIL, 2019
SUBJECT: Labor’s Climate Change Action
SHERIDAN STEWART, HOST: Is Labor’s Climate Change policy taking the issue seriously enough?
PAT CONROY: Absolutely, our goal, our target of 45% emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero pollution by 2050 is based on the best scientific advice from the Climate Change Authority about what is a reasonable and appropriate contribution from Australia to the global efforts to keep global warming under 2 degrees.
STEWART: That’s quite a big cut. How will the policy cut those emissions?
CONROY: We’ll do it by targeting different sectors of the economy with different policies. So, in energy, we’ll drive 50% renewable energy into the system, support the installation of 1 million batteries and provide $10 billion to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. So that will help cut emissions in the electricity sector. We will strengthen the current government’s safeguards mechanism to ensure that industries such as cement, aluminium and steelmaking play a role in reducing pollution in the industrial sector. In transport, we’ve put in place policies that mean 50% of new car sales by 2030 will be electric vehicles. And in the land and agricultural sector we have a range of policies to help cut carbon pollution from land and agriculture. So it’s a targeted policy where we try to work with each sector to achieve those 45% emissions reductions by 2030.
STEWART: Putting a price on carbon if often talked about as the best way to combat carbon pollution. How successful can your policy be without doing that?
CONROY: We’ve learnt from the past, both the politics and the economics around this, and we’ve heard from industry that they would prefer a tailored positions policy for each sector. So, I’m confident that this will drive the change we need. In the energy sector, using the National Energy Guarantee that every industry stakeholder supports, to drive emissions reduction in energy; working to ramp up the safeguards mechanism. These are all important things, and really importantly, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We can just implement policies that this Government supposedly support but make them actually work properly and be effective to cut carbon pollution. And the bonus for all this besides cutting greenhouse gas emissions is that we can grow jobs. So 71,000 out of our renewable energy commitment, 16,000 jobs out of our hydrogen policy, and another 13,000 jobs out of our electric vehicles policy. So, not only is it good for the environment, it’s good for the economy as well.
STEWART: Cutting carbon emissions by 45% within the next decade is the first part of Labor’s climate policy. The Coalition are talking more like 26%. Looking at what many climate scientists are saying, that we need even deeper cuts if we are to avoid the worst of climate change, particularly if you were to look at the World Meteorological Organisation State of Climate Report that came out last week, saying that climate is accelerating. Is there any scope or even willingness to go even further, to increase Labor’s targets?
CONROY: I respond two-fold. First off, by saying that this Government has no hope of getting to 26%. The Government’s own figures say that emissions in 2030 under their policies will only be 7% below 2000 levels. So they are not going to reach 26%, they are only going to reach 7%. And secondly, 45% is the staging post to get to net zero emissions by 2050. That’s based on the best scientific advice from the Climate Change Authority. And what I say to people, as someone who was deeply involved in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, in the Clean Energy Future package, is let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the possible. Let’s get a scheme in that will reduce carbon pollution in this country, demonstrate to the Australian people that Whyalla won’t be wiped out, that legs of lamb won’t cost $100, and then we can demonstrate to the Australian people that we can take action on climate change while growing the economy and jobs.
STEWART: Let’s get a little bit specific for Queensland. How would Labor be able to help the coal-intensive economies in both central and northern Queensland adapt as coal is wound back, so I’m talking about domestically as well as internationally.
CONROY: I make the point on coal exports that the vast majority of coal exports from Queensland are coking coal for making steel, and no one has found a process at an industrial level to replace that coking coal. So, we’ll be exporting coking coal for decades to come. Unlike the challenges in the thermal coal industry, which dominates my home region of the Hunter Valley in NSW. Coking coal dominates the Bowen Basin, for example, so that will have a strong future for decades to come. On domestic energy production, we won’t build another coal-fired power station in this country without a massive government subsidy. Renewable energy is just cheaper. That’s a statement of clear fact. And so anyone who argues for a new coal-fired power station is arguing for higher power prices. We’ve put in place strong energy policies to drive renewable energy. That will produce 71,000 jobs. And a lot of those jobs will be in regional Queensland, because of your great wind and solar resource. And we’ve also announced a policy around Just Transitions to help workers in coal-fired power stations transition to new jobs where they want to leave the industry, or work in the remaining power stations. And that’s a really important commitment that only Labor has offered, to look after workers in coal-fired power stations as they close down due to their extreme age and the fact that they can’t compete with renewable energy.