December 06, 2021

BELINDA KING, PRESENTER: Well on Friday Labor unveiled its plan to reduce carbon emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese saying the comprehensive plan will take Australia forward by creating 604,000 jobs, with five out of six of those situated in the regions.

Pat Conroy is Shadow Minister Assisting for Climate Change, and we last spoke to Pat about a month ago when he was in Edinburgh for COP26. Pat Conroy, good morning.

PAT CONROY, SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Good morning, lovely to talk to you again. 

KING: Good to catch up with you. How was the trip? What did you take away from your sojourn to Edinburgh?

CONROY: I took away a few lessons. One is that the debate on climate in Australia is really out of step with the rest of the world. The rest of the world is focused on the huge economic opportunities from taking action on climate change And that was the main message that I delivered to Albo - which he knew already - which is this climate crisis could be a jobs opportunity for Australia if we get the policies right and we put forward a plan that the Australian people can support. That was the main lesson I took from the climate conference which is we have to take action on climate change, we are five minutes from midnight, but if we do it properly, we can grow jobs in the economy and lower power prices.

KING: So in regards to that conference, the Australian Government has already agreed to the recommendations of COP26 and signed up to deliver a more ambitious 2030 target. That’s good news?

CONROY: Well it would be good news except for 12 hours after signing up to the Pact which says that they would come back next year with a more ambitious target, they ruled it out. So I don’t know why they signed the Pact if they were immediately going to rule out the key text of the Pact.

So this Government’s policy is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by only 26 per cent by 2030, and Mr Morrison has reaffirmed that if they win the next election, that will be their target. And that’s not only bad for the environment, and we are not playing our part in international efforts, it means we won’t get the jobs that will come from taking action on climate change. So I welcome the signing of the Pact, but this Government clearly won’t actually act on it and follow what they’ve committed to do.

KING: So Labor has a more ambitious short-term target, I believe 43 per cent by 2030. How will you achieve that?

CONROY: Through a variety of investment. One of the most important ones is our $20 billion Rewiring the Nation fund. That will drive a lot more renewable energy into the grid which will lower power prices by $275 per year for the average household and help create hundreds of thousands of jobs. The other key driver is that we will require the 215 largest emitters to reduce their carbon pollution, their greenhouse gas emissions every year, and they’ll do that by making investments in new plant and equipment to reduce their emissions or by buying what’s called offsets from carbon farmers and other Australian businesses that are reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. There’s other things like lowering the price of electric vehicles. We will lower the price of electric vehicles by up to $11,000.

So those policies will drive that 43 per cent emissions reduction, but as importantly it will create 600,000 jobs, lower power prices by $275 per year for households and industry by 18 per cent, and by 2030 we should have 82 per cent renewable energy into the grid which is great because it’ll lower power prices, and it puts Tasmania and particularly Northern Tasmania in a great position to seize the job opportunities.

KING: Now let’s dream a little here, let’s go beyond 2030, what about long terms plans and ending fossil fuels?

CONROY: Well we’ve committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and obviously we will legislate that. That will be a law of the land, and we will have to put in place plans to arrive at that by 2050, and part of that will be decarbonising Australia. So as I said, we will reach 82 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and obviously we will keep building on that into the future.

But the Government’s own modelling for example says that the rest of the world will eventually stop buying our coal. For example, they predict that by 2050 our coal sales will be half of what they are now, and most people have said that’s a pretty conservative figure. So I think that obviously as the world decarbonises, they will reduce their demand for our coal and LNG, and that makes it vital that we invest in the new industries to have new jobs.

We will still be exporting energy to the rest of the world, but it will be things like green hydrogen from Northern Tasmania, it will be exporting electricity directly from the Northern Territory and Western Australia to Indonesia and South East Asia. So we will still be exporting lots of energy, and if we get the plan right, we can do it in a way that creates jobs, and it’s a great opportunity for Tasmania given your great natural resources.

KING: Pat Conroy, thank you very much for your time this morning.

CONROY: Have a great morning, thank you.