Australia's Views on the Green Economy

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My distinguished fellow speakers and in particular I want to acknowledge His Excellency, former President, Dr Yudhoyono, in his role now as President of the Global Green Growth Institute.

Ladies and gentlemen, Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours and friends and as such we have shared interests in the Indo-Pacific region, its economic potential, regional security and the health of our environment. We are natural partners when it comes to responding to climate change.

The terrible peat fires in Indonesia this year, with catastrophic impacts on the environment and human health around South East Asia, are a striking example of the need for us to work together on regional challenges. Following Indonesia's request to assist, Australia drew on our experience of combating forest fires by providing aerial water-bombing support and health assistance through the Red Cross. Australia and Indonesia are now together investigating how to better manage the risk of fires.

We are also working on long-term projects to address climate change.Australia and Indonesia have collaborated to monitor and obtain reliable data on Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions from forestry, industry and land use, and helped develop the Indonesian National Carbon Accounting System that was launched last weekend here in Paris.

We have worked together on combatting illegal logging and on land management and Australia and Indonesia are also collaborating through 'Climate Works'. This is an independent organisation based at Australia's Monash University, working to improve commercial building energy efficiency.

There is always scope for more cooperation and we will continue to engage closely on many issues. I'm confident that Australia and Indonesia will do more together on environment and climate change issues and, in particular, we would like to reenergise the Australia-Indonesia working group on environment and climate change, and ensure these discussions focus on practical areas for collaboration.

Ladies and gentlemen, as our Prime Minister has said, Australia does not underestimate the challenge we face in responding to the impact of climate change, nor do we underestimate the capacity of humankind to innovate and adapt to find solutions to it. History gives us cause for optimism.

Technological breakthroughs and innovation will drive much of the change that will underpin the transition to a low carbon economy. In fact, the transition to a greener economy promises to be as profound a change as other great upheavals in history.

Across the world, demand for sustainable goods and services is increasing significantly. Driven by changing consumer preferences and environmental concern, more and more entrepreneurs and businesses and governments are seeing sustainability not as a cost, but as an opportunity.

In October this year, the Australian Future Business Council released a report entitled 'The Next Boom'. According to that report, in Australia, there has been a 118 per cent growth in annual solar installations and an increase of 165 per cent in the sale of hybrid cars.

Fifteen per cent of Australian households now have solar panels. That is the greatest per capita use of solar panels by households anywhere in the world. Solar panels in new housing developments in Australia are becoming standard features.

Technological development and innovation in renewable energy continues to increase exponentially.

So a green economy will provide exciting new opportunities, particularly with low levels of collaboration and coordination between the public and private sectors.

The transformation to a green economy will take time.

Australia is committed to a global agreement here in Paris which includes tracking progress through clear and transparent commitments by all countries, and increasing ambition over time, towards a target well below the 2 degree goal.

Right now, we are in a transition phase. Traditional energy sources – fossil fuels like coal – will remain a significant part of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future. Barring some technological breakthrough, fossil fuels will remain critical to promoting prosperity, growing economies, alleviating hunger, for years to come.

It is a fact that energy is a mainstay of our respective countries' export markets and underpins economic growth.

The capital stock and infrastructure we have in place to create and supply energy – both fossil fuel and renewable – have long life spans.

However, the transformation to a green economy is under way, and we must look for the opportunities and create the environment necessary for innovation to flourish.

That's why a Paris agreement is so important – for providing the global signals for efficient long-term investment, geared toward a greener economy. It's why we've set a renewable energy target of almost 25 per cent by 2020. Indeed it's also why Australia has set a national emissions target out to 2030.

We believe the transformation to a green economy will be driven, and is being driven, by technology, by innovation. Just think of the innovations that we've seen in the past 20 years, the last 10 years even. The iPhone has had a significant impact on our lives. It was only invented in 2007. Toyota's Hybrid Car was invented just 12 years ago. Not long ago, solar power needed massive and inefficient solar panels that stopped working when they got too hot. Now we are on the cusp of using solar fabrics to power a mobile phone.

Technology has the potential to reduce emissions and produce clean energy in new and yet-to-be-thought-of ways. In some cases, the costs of emerging technology are falling so rapidly that they've outstripped experts' wildest dreams.

A study in 2009 estimated how much the costs of key renewable energy technologies would fall by 2030. Yet, by 2012, only three years later, these cost reductions were met, and surpassed.

Improvements in technology and efficiency can occur rapidly in a highly competitive market economy. Which brings me to the importance of the private sector in a green economy.

Governments have a key role to support innovation and create the framework that underpins economic growth – particularly in supporting the early stages of research and development.

Prime Minister Turnbull joined other world leaders to launch Mission Innovation during the opening stages of this Summit last week. Australia supports Mission Innovation's goal of accelerating research, development and demonstration of clean energy.

The private sector will lead the way on developing the new technologies that will contribute to a green economy. Businesses will play a vital role in commercialising clean energy breakthroughs.

Our Government has established a Business Partnership Platform to work as a grant-matching scheme with the private sector on climate projects. Under the platform, the Government co-invests up to $500,000 with organisations for commercial opportunities that also have a significant development impact. There's been a positive response to the platform, particularly from NGOs.

It's also in the best interests of businesses to adopt more efficient technologies that are less emissions intensive, as their capital stock is turned over with new investment.

Earlier this year, I established an innovation hub within the Department of Foreign Affairs – we call it the innovationXchange – which is focused on improving the effectiveness of our foreign aid program.

Its purpose is to challenge the old ways of delivering development assistance, and through more creative and innovative thinking, and application, to come up with solutions to some of the seemingly intractable development issues in our region particularly, to pilot them, and then scale them up if they show great results. In fact, the innovationXchange is already showing promising outcomes.

For a start, the Government had to change our way of thinking, and we had to set an example by doing things differently and more efficiently. Let me just give you one small example. Tenders for the delivery of aid programs have traditionally been a cumbersome and lengthy process. Tender documents themselves were so prescriptive, we would be lucky to get five or six organisations submitting a bid for what were often, multi-million dollar contracts.

So our new approach is to simply define the problem, specify the government funding available, and then invite tenderers to specify how they would fix it. Now this simple approach resulted in over 60 bids at our first trial, including from private sector companies, from consortiums, from universities which had never before tendered for an aid project. The new approaches that they've brought to these development issues have been so refreshing.

So we need to unlock and harness new ideas from wherever they exist.

The private sector is now essential to our aid program so we implement sustainable solutions that tackle development challenges whilst delivering commercial returns.

Now, this kind of collaboration is equally applicable to the development of a green economy. Australia recognises the importance of sustainable economic growth for our nation and for our region.

We've invested over $15 billion in new and innovative technology to expand our renewable and clean energy sector. We've focused on climate change resilience in our aid program, by committing at least $200 million a year to help countries in our region, particularly in the Pacific, build resilience to climate related events.

Australia has partnered with the Global Reporting Initiative, to support businesses to improve their social and sustainability reporting and performance, including in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.

The role of Government is to balance competing interests and to bring business, individuals and communities with us.

Indeed, I spent the weeks in the lead-up to setting our 2030 target – our INDCs here for Paris – meeting with business, with industry, with civil society and individuals at roundtables and other forms of meetings because such consultation is essential – as our Government will rely heavily on the private sector, NGOs, individuals to deliver a sustainable national target and to transition towards a green economy.

So, ladies and gentlemen, in this age of technology-driven innovation, we must seize the opportunities before us to ensure sustainable, green, economic growth, for the prosperity and the environmental health of our region, and beyond.

Let us hope that we are able to rise to the challenge and conclude a global agreement here in Paris.

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