Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Thursday, 28 October 2021
Scott Emerson: Simon Birmingham, is the finance minister and government leader in the Senate, and he joins me on the line now. Minister, thanks for being on 4BC drive once again.
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Scott. It's great to be with you again.
Scott Emerson: Now on this issue revealed by Steven Kennedy that the Treasurer had minimal input into the modelling for the zero net emissions plan. Why was that?
Simon Birmingham: Because the modelling has been undertaken by the department responsible for emissions reduction. That's the logical thing that we would do as a government that when we want health modelling, we go to the health department. When we want modelling in relation to emissions reductions, we go to the department responsible for emissions reduction, which is the Department of Industry. And they've presented a very detailed plan this week that outlines Australia's trajectories in terms of emissions reduction, how our investment in new technologies is going to help us to achieve further emissions reductions. And it's their modelling that that helps to underpin that.
Scott Emerson: But we're talking about a plan that has massive implications for the nation's economy going out for another, you know, almost 30 years. Surely Treasury should have some say in that and look at the numbers at least.
Simon Birmingham: Sure, the Treasury, in fact, had a couple of staff who were seconded into the process of the modelling that was undertaken. They were part of an intergovernmental panel that that provided some advice and input along the way. So, you know, this was very clearly a whole of government exercise, but ultimately one department undertakes the lead and in this case, it's the one responsible for emissions reduction. And they've done a very good job working through the different types of technologies that we need to invest in as a country and that we are investing in, there's some $20 billion of commitments out to 2030 to help us achieve those sorts of gains in terms of hydrogen energy and how we bring that into an affordable sphere for the future in terms of very low cost, ultra low cost solar technology projects in the future, in terms of areas of making steel and aluminium in much more friendly, low emissions ways for the future. And these are the sorts of achievements we've got to have if we're actually going to be able to realise emissions reductions and to build on the 20 per cent plus we've achieved already in emissions reductions in Australia.
Scott Emerson: Now UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he described the Australia's decision to go for net zero emissions by 2050 as heroic. He's welcomed the plan. But how do you think the other world leaders will greet the Australian way as the prime minister has dubbed his plan for net zero emissions by half way through the century?
Simon Birmingham: I think we've all been around long enough to see these climate change conferences occur, and I've got no doubt there'll be a cacophony of different noise and opinions that that will emanate from them. But what really matters is the actions that countries are undertaking and what they're achieving. In Australia's case, where one of the few countries of the world who can go to this conference with our head held high, able to say that for each of the three test periods of climate change action to date, the first period of the old Kyoto Protocol, the second period of the Kyoto Protocol, and now the first period the Paris Agreement that runs until 2030. And each of those we in the Kyoto terms met and beat the targets that Australia set for ourselves. And in terms of Paris, we said a few years back that we would reduce Australia's emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent by 2030. We're actually on track to do that by between 30 and 35 per cent, which is what the prime minister will update those attending the conference on.
Scott Emerson: I'm talking to the finance minister and government leader in the Senate, Simon Birmingham. Minister, we did see that that Australia is under pressure also over methane emissions by 2030. Australia says it's not going to sign that pledge. Other countries are planning to do that. Why not agree to that?
Simon Birmingham: So this is about recognising what's in our national interest in terms of achieving the ultimate goal, which is net zero by 2050. Now counting accounting for carbon emissions for climate change gases is a complex business. It involves looking at gases like carbon dioxide and methane, and they are all part of our net zero by 2050 strategy and plan. So we're certainly are committing to tackling methane emissions out to 2050 as well. But to take very short term action in terms of methane emissions in Australia would be severely detrimental, potentially to our dairy industry. And our dairy farmers our cattle farmers across Australia. These are some of the sectors that contribute notably to methane emissions specifically. So we're not interested in terms of hurting those sectors over the next couple of years, what we've committed to do in the plan released this week instead is invest in the technologies that can reduce their methane emissions out to 2050. Technologies like new feedstock technologies that can be deployed to transform basically the emissions profile from cows and cattle and actually make a profound difference that way by using technology to keep our farmers afloat and to reduce our emissions.
Scott Emerson: Well, Minister Simon Birmingham, I do appreciate you joining us on 4BC Drive.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Scott. My pleasure.