Transcript of Doorstop Interview, Domain, rear of NSW Parliament House
25 October 2006
Subject: Re-announcement of one-off low emission technology funding, climate change strategy, Kyoto, investment in renewables.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Today’s announcement by Peter Costello and Ian Macfarlane shows that the Howard Government is playing catch up on climate change.
Peter Costello has failed to mention the issue of climate change in delivering 11 Budgets. Ian Macfarlane said just last month that he questions whether there is a connection between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
Today’s announcement is welcome as a one-off but it has been more than two years in the making. This is funding that was announced in June 2004 as part of the Government’s Energy White Paper. And it has taken more than two years to get a single project announcement.
The government is good at allocating money to funds and then making political decisions at politically convenient times about announcements. But on the issue of climate change, we require a systematic response.
Climate Change is a systematic issue which requires a systematic response. Whilst Labor welcomes one-off announcements, what we need is a systematic response across the board.
We need to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We need to have significant increase in our Mandatory Renewable Energy Target. We need a national target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we need to have a price on carbon by having a national emissions trading system.
Unless we have that systematic structural reform to drive change towards a carbon constrained economy, then we will be continually playing catch up.
What we need is that across the board approach – and that is what is lacking from a government that isn’t making the serious moves that are necessary towards avoiding dangerous climate change.
JOURNALIST: How would signing up to Kyoto and ratifying the CDM, how would that improve investment in clean technology in Australia?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Were Australia a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol we would have access to the Clean Development Mechanism and also the Joint Implementation measures of Kyoto. That means that in practice, like we witnessed last week when the Environment Minister, Ian Campbell travelled to China to open a $300 million joint venture project between the Roaring 40s Company and a Chinese company. That project was 51% owned by the Chinese company which made it eligible for funding under the clean development mechanism of Kyoto.
Here you have a government that is prepared to send its Ministers overseas to open Kyoto based projects providing opportunities for Australia, which at the same time says that it is not worthwhile to ratify Kyoto.
Australia remains, in spite of today’s announcement, the only nation on the planet in which clean energy projects are closing.
It is shutting the photovoltaic rebate project from June of next year because it’s been too successful. It blocked the Bald Hills wind farm project worth $220 million in Victoria.
It has failed to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, which has lead to the Roaring 40s Company, which opened the project in China, to not proceed with $550 million worth of projects in Tasmania and South Australia. The renewable energy manufacturing plant in northern Tasmania run by Vestas Nacelel, is shutting this year with a loss of 100 jobs.
Australia remains the only nation on the planet where renewable energy projects are actually closing.
JOURNALIST: You are calling for emissions trading in Australia. In the EU it has so far failed to drive any significant investment in clean technology. What makes you think it is going to work in Australia?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: There have been some difficulties with the European system and we need to learn from them, but at the same time we have seen enormous growth in renewable energy projects in Europe. Last week I met with a Danish delegation where renewable energy projects are heading towards 20% of their energy provision, where there has been an increase of 30,000 jobs, where renewable energy exports for the Danish economy are now at number three in terms of their export dollars.
There is a massive growth in Europe in the renewable energy sector and projects such as a solar thermal plant will open in Spain this year providing base load capacity, using Australian innovation. Australia has been very good at innovation but what we haven’t been good at is commercialising those ideas.
We need a price signal. There are two sorts of price signals you can have – a market based mechanism though emissions trading, or a carbon tax. We support an emissions trading system because we oppose a new tax such as a tax on carbon.
JOURNALIST: What is the difference then between your approach and the$500 million dollars that had been put down on the table by the Federal Government?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The essential difference is that while we support funding for one off projects, and of course it is important to recognise that this is a jointly funded project between the Federal Government and the Victorian State Labor Government.
What we support is structural reform that drives investment in renewable and clean technologies – by establishing emissions trading, by having a Renewable Energy Target, by having a long term mandated target to reduce our emissions.
Unless you have those economic incentives you won’t be able to solve the climate change problems by announcing one off projects.
We need a whole of government approach in order to move towards a carbon constrained economy. That is the big difference between Labor and the Federal Government.
It is not surprising given that the government has sceptics at its head. John Howard just three weeks ago said that he wasn’t interested in what might happen in 50 years time when it came to responding to the drought.
It is clear the climate change is here and now. What today’s announcement reinforces is that the technological solutions are here right now. What we need to do is multiply the application of those new technologies so that we really drive down our emissions which are currently spiralling out of control.