Wednesday, 12 February 2020
Questions without Notice
So noted. RepuTex have reported today that emissions from gas production are a mind-boggling 621 per cent above 2005 levels. Industrial emissions are also up 60 per cent driven by the huge amounts of energy required to liquefy gas for LNG export. Gas is wiping out all of the gains of renewable energy. Why are you pretending that gas is our saviour?
I thank the senator for her question about the role of gas exports in terms of Australia's emissions profile. It is correct, as Senator Waters indicates, that exports of gas and liquefaction of gas for export have contributed in that sector to an increase in Australia's emissions profile, while other areas—that I note Senator Waters doesn't talk about in terms of a reduction in our emissions across our own domestic energy consumption—lead ultimately to a net reduction. But let's deal particularly with the question Senator Waters raises about Australian export of gas to the rest of the world. Senator Cormann has outlined in answers recently the role that Australian coal can play relative to coal from other countries that is less efficient than Australian coal and creates more emissions when it is burned.
Gas of course plays an even bigger role in emissions reduction as a transition fuel in other countries. So the important role the LNG sector plays is not just as a contributor to Australia's exports but also as a fuel source for other nations, helping them to not only get the reliable energy and power that they need but also often as a substitute fuel source as their economies transition, sometimes transitioning away from coal, sometimes transitioning away from nuclear energy due to other factors, which I know the Greens also oppose.
The Greens are coming in here now criticising Australian gas exports as contributing to Australia's emissions but ignoring the fact that those same gas exports may well be reducing by a far greater sum the emissions profile of the countries that they're going to. This is the whole failure of the argument put by some others in this place.
Emissions are a global challenge. Australia plays its role but we also have to look at the global picture and, in this case, where we can provide more efficient sources of energy to other countries— (Time expired)
Minister, you are essentially saying our gas is being substituted for coal. Can you tell me which countries are now burning gas instead of coal, how much each country substituted and how many tonnes of emissions have been reduced? Or is it the case that, in fact, these countries are now burning gas as well as coal, and you're just spouting fossil fuel industry talking points?
I don't know whether Senator Waters wants a policy that basically limits the energy consumption of other countries but the truth is many countries within our region have increasing energy needs. That is a subset of increasing populations, higher living standards, fewer people living in poverty, a whole range of factors that are driving the growth of living standards.
Senator McGrath interjecting—
Thank you, Senator McGrath. Yes, indeed, fewer people living in poverty is a good thing and more people enjoying higher living standards is a good thing. Increased energy consumption is part of that. They could have chosen to use more domestic coal sources in some of those cases.
My question was a specific one about the substitution claim that the minister made, asking him to provide evidence of that. I haven't heard that being addressed yet. It is obviously central to the government's argument and the minister should substantiate those claims, even though he won't be able—
Senator Waters, you have made your point of order; it is not a time for argument. You did at the conclusion ask for specifics but you made an assertion at the start as well. The minister is allowed to expand on the assertion and be directly relevant.
The point I was making was that these countries have growing energy needs, so they may be pursuing in many cases gas as an alternative to where they might have used domestic coal reserves if they had them, alternate coal reserves if they could access them, even Australian coal potentially but they have chosen to use LNG— (Time expired)
The government has signalled it will take a 2050 target to the UN meeting in Glasgow but the UN's climate scientists say that catastrophic tipping points will be reached if we don't halve pollution in the next decade. Will the government's pledge for a tiny 3.9 per cent reduction over 10 years be lifted so that our national aspirations are in line with the science?
Our commitment to a 26 to 28 per cent reduction by 2030 is, in capita terms, one of the most significant commitments made in the world. By GDP terms, it is a significant reduction of Australia's emissions intensity, again, far greater than commitments made by most other nations around the world. Australia goes forward determined to meet those targets and, as the Prime Minister and I and others have repeatedly said, to beat those commitments we made for the 2030 horizon. Our ambition ought to be to beat them by as comfortable a margin if not more than the way we are already beating and forecast to beat our 2020 targets, which is a substantial excess that Australia has managed to achieve in relation to the 2020 targets. And the ambitions we take forward by backing technology and technological change in Australia that can help to drive technological change overseas are about making sure we do successfully beat those targets.