Spotlight on Australia - Policy, Business and Markets

  • Speech, check against delivery

The Carbon Market Institute is an important part of Australia's climate policy landscape.

As the title of this event suggests - Spotlight on Australia - the Institute is playing an important role here in Paris in showcasing Australian climate policy to the world.

Our negotiations for a new global agreement are in their final phase, and we are hopeful that we can reach an effective deal, but the days and nights ahead are going to be very challenging.

The decisions we make in Paris will shape the future of our environment and also the global economy.

And, as Peter said, much has happened since I spoke at last year's Carbon Market Institute event in Lima.

At that event, I updated you on Australia's climate policies and the importance of delivering for both our environment and our economy.

We have seen a great deal of progress in international negotiations on a new climate agreement since that time.

185 countries have now submitted post-2020 targets and, as I said at the meeting that we hosted and chaired today of the Pacific island nations, every one of our Pacific island neighbours have submitted a post-2020 target, and I think this is a really tremendous effort. Many of these are quantifiable and unconditional.

So we're now ready to formalise these national targets in a durable and effective global agreement.

Australia supports a long lasting climate agreement, beyond a single target period, which lays out a credible strategy for all countries to take greater action – and all countries to take greater action and improvement – over time.

We support regular reviews of targets to ensure they remain contemporary, relevant and reflect changes in technology and economic development, and this is a really important point.

Such an agreement will give countries confidence – the confidence to take action and set national climate change policies, knowing they're moving in the same direction as their major trading partners and major trading competitors and importantly the rest of the world.

It will give business greater confidence. Australian business needs to be able to make informed investment decisions that accurately take account of global action on climate change.

So the Paris Agreement must be relevant to business, and inclusive of business, if it's to be effective and if it is to be enduring.

Australia has come to Paris with a 2030 target that is environmentally and economically responsible - one that is a significant progression beyond our 2020 commitment and comparable with other similar sized economies.

Against 2005 levels, our 2030 target represents projected cuts in emissions per capita by one half, and cuts per unit of GDP by two thirds.

On a per capita and emissions intensity basis, our reductions are greater than many other major developed economies.

And meeting this target, yes, it will require substantial effort, but we are confident that we can achieve the target by reducing emissions at low cost while maintaining strong economic and jobs growth.

Australia has a growing population and a growing economy. We're in our 24th consecutive year of economic growth. We're a leading global resources provider and we have a higher than average abatement cost because our energy infrastructure is reflecting our national circumstances.

Now embracing innovation and finding new ways to reduce emissions will be key to meeting our emissions target, and this is where Australia really has a significant role to play.

In 2015, the Government set up an Office of Climate Change and Renewables Innovation to bring together all renewables and climate change bodies and to streamline private sector partnerships.

I think it gives a fresh and renewed focus to the role of developing new technology to cut our emissions and concentrate some $15 billion of incentives in clean technologies, innovation and emissions reduction.

Earlier this month, the Australian Government also released our National Energy Productivity Plan.

The plan includes an energy productivity target of a 40 per cent improvement between 2015 and 2030. Now we've got to be supporting the energy sector to offer more efficient services by fostering technology innovation and competitive modern markets, and to help consumers assess value-for-money in their access of services.

A key development in our climate change policy has been Australia's Emissions Reduction Fund - enabling us to purchase lowest cost abatement at auction in the form of Australian carbon credit units from a wide range of sources.

The fund provides a real incentive to businesses, households and landowners to reduce their emissions.

In 2015, Australia concluded two very successful auctions under the fund - one in April, one in November - and we purchased almost 100 million tonnes of emissions reductions, at an average price of around $13 a tonne.

Our Safeguard Mechanism, which will commence from 1 July 2016, will cover 140 of our largest-emitting facilities, and will ensure that emissions bought under the Fund are not offset by increases in business-as-usual emissions elsewhere in the economy.

Many of the successful projects at the last auction involved action on the land, including 33 fire management projects.

Increasingly, however, the fund is seeing innovation from a wider range of sectors.

One of Australia's largest cement producers, Adelaide-Brighton, was awarded a contract for a wood-firing project that will use wood waste to replace natural gas as a source of thermal energy in the cement manufacturing process.

In my home state of Western Australia, a large-scale piggery will capture previously vented methane from effluent waste as a fuel to meet its electricity needs.

So these examples of commercial-scale, private sector, innovation have the potential to be replicated in similar facilities around the world. And one example is the $100 million reverse auction launched recently by the World Bank which in fact shares many features with our Emissions Reduction Fund.

We're engaging closely with business as we work towards developing and reviewing our domestic climate policies in 2017.

We deeply appreciate the private sector's interest in accessing international units and recognise that international carbon markets are also a key part of the global effort to reduce emissions.

Carbon markets can provide flexibility for countries and companies to use genuine and verified international units to help meet their commitments.

We will continue to consider the role of international units in meeting Australia's 2030 target in the longer term when we review our domestic climate policies.

In the meantime, we want to see the Paris Agreement give confidence that countries will have flexibility to use markets in a robust and credible way.

We want to see transparency, we want to see environmental integrity in all market mechanisms, and to this end, Australia supports the New Zealand-led Paris Ministerial Declaration on Carbon Markets.

By joining the Declaration we have signalled our resolve to work with others to deliver a robust and durable international carbon market post-2020 that contributes to the global low-carbon transition.

Climate action is of course not just a Government responsibility. Business is crucial to reduce our share of global emissions.

I'm really pleased to see that business, like government, has also been using Paris as an opportunity to make new climate commitments.

I welcome the new commitments that major Australian companies, such as AGL Energy, BHP Billiton, Qantas and Origin, have brought forward.

These will make a real difference.

I also commend those businesses, and NGOs and subnational authorities that have brought new vision, and commitments and solutions to the Lima-Paris Action Agenda.

This week our Prime Minister launched back in Australia a new national innovation and science agenda.

This agenda is driven by our desire for innovation to be at the heart of our economy and will be a key ingredient for our long term prosperity.

This agenda is about rewarding innovation, entrepreneurship – those enterprising people in Australia who take risks. It's to focus on increasing collaboration between businesses, universities and the research and private sector.

Australian innovation will embrace ideas for commercialisation, seize the opportunities for new sources of growth and jobs, and new opportunities for Australian industries.

It's these policies that will help drive technological breakthroughs which, ultimately, will be the game changers when it comes to dealing with climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen, Australia's efforts to reduce emissions are significant. They help lay the foundations for us to make a meaningful contribution towards a durable and effective agreement.

What we deliver here in Paris will determine not just the shape of the global response to climate change, it will also shape each country's domestic policy agenda.

I'm hopeful that we can reach a global agreement to reduce emissions and that will put us on a path to a more secure and more prosperous world.

So we're expecting the first draft of the text at 3 o'clock today. I'll be chairing the Umbrella Group meeting as we consider the text. There will be a number of negotiations by a number of groups throughout the night and tomorrow and Friday.

The French Presidency are very hopeful that it will be concluded by 6 o'clock on Friday and I think maintaining that timeframe certainly focuses people's minds.

So I'm delighted to be here again this year. Thank you for the invitation. I'm happy to take any questions.

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