Today Show - interview with Peter Stefanovic

  • Transcript E&OE

PETER STEFANOVIC The historic global deal on climate change agreed yesterday in Paris will have a big impact on Australia. These are the main aims – to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, aiming for 1.5 degree Celsius, to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to eliminate use of coal, oil and gas for energy, to replace those fossil fuels for more solar and wind power and to have developed countries provide US$100 billion per year from 2020 to help developing nations.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has just arrived back from Paris and she joins us now in Perth. Good morning to you Minister, very difficult to get some 200 countries to agree on something, it is no doubt historic. Can you give us a sense just how relieved you and the other leaders are?

JULIE BISHOP The agreement that was reached in Paris is an important step forward in the global response to climate change. For the very first time we have an agreement that covers almost 200 countries – so it's a global agreement that has been reached for the first time. And it requires countries to take constructive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and play their part in the global response to climate change and it's taking into account the different circumstances and different capabilities and capacity of each country.

So all countries involved include those from the small islands developing nations in the Pacific through to the major emitters - China, the United States and India – so in that sense it is the first time we have had this commitment. It will commence in 2020 and Australia will begin to implement the targets that we set last August, that is a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030 and there will be five-yearly reviews so we can ensure all countries are meeting the commitments that they have signed up to.

PETER STEFANOVIC Let's narrow it down to our country. Much of it is not legally binding – that is with respect to the Paris agreement – and so it depends on political will. What is Australia's specific action plan?

JULIE BISHOP Specifically we set targets that we announced last August of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in our share of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. We have set out a plan to do that - the Direct Action Plan - it is all about using energy more efficiently, embracing renewables and ensuring that we reduce our reliance on fuels that generate greenhouse gas emissions. But it is also about building efficiency, using electricity more efficiently and the like. We have met and are likely to exceed our 2020 target so I am confident that we will meet our 2030 target. Australia is one of those nations that says what it is going to do and then does what it says.

PETER STEFANOVIC Most of us are quite well aware there needs to be a balance between what is good for the environment and what is good for economy. So what is it going to cost us to meet these targets? How many jobs are at risk?

JULIE BISHOP That is the whole point - we don't want jobs to be at risk. What we are doing is balancing a responsible environmental plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but balancing it with economic growth and job opportunities. While jobs might change in some areas, there will be new jobs in renewables, in energy efficiency, so we want to see our economy grow.

We are not going to destroy our economy for the purposes of signing up to an agreement that doesn't achieve anything. That is why we are pleased this agreement balances environmental concerns with economic growth. That is absolutely fundamental. It would be counter- productive to do otherwise.

PETER STEFANOVIC Opponents have said because a lot of is not legal binding essentially it doesn't have any teeth. So the Paris agreement is just a bunch of fancy words.

JULIE BISHOP No, not at all. Countries have put forward publicly their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and what this agreement achieves is these five-yearly reviews where countries have to publicly state how they are doing it, whether they are on track, what technological breakthroughs there have been. There has been a lot of focus on research and development and innovation so countries are required publicly to lodge their statements of what they have been able to achieve. That will provide considerable impetus for progress.

PETER STEFANOVIC There are some suggestions there is no way in the world, that the world as a whole will be able to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions for a variety of reasons, including the fact there are currently plans for more than 2500 more global coal plants as coal is easily the cheapest source of energy.

JULIE BISHOP We do have a number of nations that are suffering what is called energy poverty. For example, India has about 400 million of people without electricity. So if we are going to lift standards of living and eliminate poverty around the world, we need to ensure that people have access to energy. The new generation coal fire power stations are using high quality coal such as Australian coal and using less coal but for the same amount of energy.

But there is also a focus on nuclear and some countries are virtually deriving all of their power from nuclear which is an emissions free source of energy. There is hydro, wind, solar and I also believe that technological breakthroughs will give us the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The ambitions in the agreement are lofty but unless countries are prepared to sign up for it, we won't achieve anything. And that's what was achieved in Paris, an agreement that covers almost 200 nations in the world.

PETER STEFANOVIC Given the economic climate here, how is it possible to kick in dollars to developing nations so that they have wind farms and solar energy?

JULIE BISHOP We have already made that commitment to a floor of $200 million a year to nations in the Pacific specifically, because they are looking for climate resilient programs and initiatives, because they are in one of the most natural disaster broken regions in the world. So we already provide a great deal of support to our Pacific neighbours and we will continue to do that. We work in partnership with them so if there are particular initiatives they wants us to undertake, early warning systems of natural disasters and the like, we are prepared to work with them to ensure that they can have a sustainable economy and also be a more safe and secure nation.

PETER STEFANOVIC Not everything Australia wanted from the summit was able to make it into the agreement. What kind of compromises had to be made?

JULIE BISHOP Compromises were made across the board, no one country got whatever they wanted, the agreement is not perfect from every country's point of view. What was achieved was a compromise that included all countries. This is the distinction between previous attempts to get a global agreement. The United States, China, India, developed and developing countries, all signed onto the one agreement.

So of course, in that circumstances there are compromises, but Australia got what we were looking for in terms of mandate that the Cabinet had given me. We have transparency and accountability and we have five-yearly reviews. The temperature goal of 2 degrees, we wanted it well below 2 degrees but we recognise our Pacific Island nations wanted a 1.5 degree aim and we were able to reference that in the agreement. I am very pleased what Australia was able to achieve and it was within the mandate that the Australian Government had given me to negotiate upon.

PETER STEFANOVIC Just finally minister, how big a role will wind farms play here?

JULIE BISHOP That, of course, will depend on the investors. We provide a range of choices for people. I think that there are going to be technological breakthroughs in coal and nuclear, in wind, in solar around the world. Of course, Australian investors will pick and choose what they think is economically and environmentally responsible.

PETER STEFANOVIC Julie Bishop, it has been a long flight to Perth. Appreciate your time this morning.

JULIE BISHOP My pleasure.

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