Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs
Date: Friday, 22 January 2021
Natalie Barr: For more I’m joined by Acting Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham. Thanks for your time, morning to you. Is it time
Simon Birmingham: Morning, Nat.
Natalie Barr: America rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, no doubt that will put more pressure on Australia over our environmental policies. Is it time we embraced a much lower carbon target?
Simon Birmingham: Nat, this is a decision by the Biden Administration that I warmly welcome. The reality is that Australia has always been a signatory to the Paris accord. We never left it, the United States did, and we are very pleased to see the United States back at the table of the Paris agreement. And the only way we're all going to achieve the outcomes we want from the Paris agreement, which is a global reduction in emissions to tackle climate change, is for the big economies, the big emissions nations such as the United States to be at the table and to be a part of that.
Now, Australia's been reducing our emissions at a rate faster than many other countries - faster than Canada, faster than New Zealand, faster than the United States, faster than the OECD average - and we want to see net zero achieved, I want to see net zero achieved. And I hope that we can work with the United States as technology partners on the way to do that.
Natalie Barr: But a lot of experts say Australia is one of the biggest emitters per capita. The EU, the UK, Japan have all signed up to this net zero carbon emissions by 2050. If, as you say, you and your Government want to see that reduction why don't you sign up to that?
Simon Birmingham: Well, net zero is part of the Paris agreement already, and we are a signatory to the Paris agreement. So, we want to achieve net zero, we want to see it happen-
Natalie Barr: But, you haven't signed up to that target, have you? As a government you haven’t signed up? Australia hasn’t signed up to that?
Simon Birmingham: We've signed, we've signed up to the Paris agreement - achieving net zero in the second half of this century is part of the Paris agreement. Now, we want to see it achieved as soon as possible. And the really exciting opportunity that the Biden Administration offers is the commitment to invest in technologies that are necessary to get to zero, and that very much aligns with our Government's approach, the Morrison Government's approach, where our technology roadmap, looking at how we can continue to reduce emissions in Australia, not through taxes, but through investment in technology.
And we see huge opportunities for the Australian Government and Australian businesses to work alongside the Biden administration and US businesses as they ramp up their investment in technologies to ensure that we can be a leader, whether that be in new energy sources like hydrogen or whether that be in ensuring that we reduce emissions across other sectors of our economy.
Natalie Barr: So, can I just be clear, because I wasn't sure on that. Are you now committing Australia to net zero emissions by 2050?
Simon Birmingham: I'm saying that Australia is already a signatory to the Paris agreement and the Paris agreement has a provision for net zero in the second half of this century.
Natalie Barr: So is that a yes?
Simon Birmingham: And we're already committed to that. What we want to do… Well, it's a yes in terms of what the Paris agreement says. That’s why we signed it and we commit to it.
Natalie Barr: Because the Prime Minister has said, no, on this. So I just want to make sure.
Simon Birmingham: No. No, I want to be clear. The Paris agreement says net zero in the second half of this century. And then the Prime Minister has said, and I've said previously, we want to achieve it as soon as possible. If that can be done by 2050, fantastic. If it can be done sooner, even better. But what we need is, of course, the road map to get there. And that's where our record investments in technology can now be complemented by the investments of the Biden administration as well.
Natalie Barr: Okay, so Biden said 2050, and I think we're still as soon as possible. That’s- the wording, I guess, will be worked out when you guys chat. Thank you very much, Minister. We appreciate your time this morning.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Nat. Cheers.