Thursday, 12 November 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the foreign minister, Minister Payne. We know from US President-elect Biden's report of this morning's phone call between the President-elect and the Prime Minister that the discussion included confronting climate change. Interestingly, the report of the equivalent conversation with the Japanese Prime Minister noted their shared commitment to tackle climate change. We also know that the Prime Minister tried to cut the climate crisis out of reports of his conversation with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. So I'd like to get some things on the table now. How did climate feature in the conversation the Prime Minister had with President-elect Biden, and did they discuss how Australia's 2030 targets lagged the rest of the world, contrasting starkly with President-elect Biden's commitment to zero carbon from electricity by 2035?
I thank Senator Rice for her question. I've seen the read out of the President-elect's call with Prime Minister Morrison. I think it is important to reinforce—and I noticed Senator Rice did not refer to this—both leaders, President-elect Biden and the Prime Minister, made clear our strong commitment to strengthening our alliance even further as we head towards the 70th anniversary of ANZUS next year. We agreed there was no more critical a time for our alliance as we face the global pandemic and we face a much more uncertain strategic environment.
I think I had just said that the leaders discussed their shared values, our many shared interests, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. They also discussed the need for like-minded liberal democracies to do more together, which I'm sure would be endorsed by Senator Rice and those in her party, whether it is in the G7-plus, the Quad or the G20 through the leadership of multilateral institutions. Prime Minister Morrison has also indicated that their discussion included addressing global environmental challenges, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and plastics pollution in the oceans. The Prime Minister welcomed President-elect Biden's commitment that the United States would rejoin the Paris Agreement, which, as I would note, Australia has been a continuing and committed member of. They also discussed the alignment between the President-elect's climate change platform and Australia's focus on practical measures to reduce emissions through investment in clean technology and on exploring opportunities for partnerships on clean technology, investment and deployment.
President-elect Joe Biden has described the climate crisis as the No. 1 issue facing humanity. Will Australia be represented at the climate summit President-elect Biden has pledged to hold within the first 100 days of his presidency? I also invite the minister to actually respond to the point in my first question: whether they discussed 2030 targets in their phone call.
I've indicated what matters were discussed in the phone call. I indicated across five points, I think, what they were. It is a matter for President-elect Biden and the administration, once it is formed, as to how they convene that meeting. There are a number of other meetings President-elect Biden has indicated he wishes to convene, and Australia would welcome an opportunity to participate.
At the COP 26 conference in Glasgow next year, the US is certain to submit a more ambitious target than us for 2030, having already committed to the same target as us—26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels—five years earlier than us, by 2025. Furthermore, European countries have already committed to increasing their ambition to 55 per cent below 1990 pollution levels by 2030. Will the government commit to stronger, more ambitious 2030 targets ahead of COP 26?
I thank Senator Rice for her supplementary question. The Australian government intends to communicate our long-term emissions reduction strategy before COP 26. The Paris Agreement encourages parties to strive, to formulate and to communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies. It does not, as it stands, require us to submit a long-term emissions reduction target. This government has released the Technology Investment Roadmap's first annual Low Emissions Technology Statement, setting out stretch goals for key technologies to underpin the transmission to a low-emissions economy. These goals will be reviewed annually and with the flexibility of adding new technologies as appropriate. Australia's Paris target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 is a responsible and ambitious contribution to global climate action. It is ambitious because it represents a halving of emissions per person in Australia and a two-thirds reduction in emissions per unit of GDP. Those reductions are amongst the highest of G20 countries.