Annual Climate Change Statement to Parliament

The Ngunnawal and Ngambri people have loved the lands, skies and waters of this region for millennia.

As we reflect on the health of our environment today, we acknowledge the stewardship of all of Australia’s First Nations people, and celebrate their elders past, present and emerging.

In acknowledging country, I also acknowledge a fundamental truth: that our First Nations people, who enjoy such a rich and meaningful connection with their Country, have much to lose from unchecked climate change. 

From the visible and tangible: from the rising sea levels and natural disasters impacting on the people of Torres Strait to the increasing temperatures in already hot remote communities. 

To the less visible but deeply meaningful: the impact on culture and ritual, the increasing difficulty of living on Country. 

And today I reaffirm the Albanese Government’s commitment to work with and learn from First Nations people in tackling the challenge of climate change. 

We will do this through a Voice to Parliament.

We will do this through the development of the First Nations Clean Energy Strategy, funded in our first Budget, which will be co-designed with communities. 

We will do this through our remote community micro-grids policy and through the Torres Strait Climate Centre for Excellence, which we also funded in our first Budget. 

I was honoured to meet with Torres Strait Elders on Country in my first weeks as Minister for Climate Change and Energy and to learn from them about the impacts of climate change on their islands.  

I have been honoured to meet with them here in Canberra this week. It is an honour to have them in the House today.

There once was a time, when advocates of climate action had to warn of the impacts of warming off in the distant future. 

No longer.

Climate change has moved from a theory.

To a prediction…

To a lived reality.

The truth is that no Australian is spared from the impact of climate change – from the regions to the cities.

Not the farmer, working harder and harder amid more and more destructive disasters. 

Not the tourism worker in Queensland, whose livelihood comes from sharing the joys of the world’s greatest coral reef.

Not the communities subjected to a seemingly never ending cavalcade of bushfires followed by flood, followed by flood again, all too dispiritingly soon. 

Our beautiful land has always been subject to devastating natural disasters.

But those disasters are becoming:

  • increasingly devastating
  • increasingly frequent
  • increasingly unnatural.

But as difficult as our current predicament is, it is still incumbent on us to be truthful and frank about how much worse it will be if we, and the world, don’t act now.

Our country was devastated by the Black Summer bushfires just a few years ago. 

But as frightening as that bushfire season was, the absence of action will see the temperatures and conditions of that year become the norm by the 2040s and become a “good year” by the 2060s. 

We cannot let that happen.

Changing rainfall and worsening heat will make our world-class agricultural sector less productive and harder to work. 

In fact Australia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including bushfires and floods, so the stakes are extremely high.

Not acting would be an unforgivable act of intergenerational negligence. 

And while Australia has a lot to lose from climate change, as a good international citizen we care deeply about our region and the impacts of climate everywhere. 

Pakistan received three times the annual average rainfall in only three months – May, June and July this year - inundating hundreds of villages, towns, and districts.

More than 1,700 people have died in their floods. More than 600 young lives robbed.

Closer to home, our important neighbour Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago with hundreds of millions of citizens living in low lying areas and exposed to sea level rise. 

And of course our Pacific neighbours are on the front line, and not just through rising sea levels.  

Natural disasters are taking an increasing toll on our friends and neighbours.  Salt water is invading fresh water supplies. The lifestyles and economies of our Pacific neighbours face unprecedented threats.  Indeed, until now, unthinkable.  

I am honoured to welcome so many Pacific ambassadors, high commissioners and community leaders here today and I reiterate our Government’s support to work with them on the way forward. 

I give all these examples not out of a sense of despondency but out of urgency.

Our country has wasted a decade.  We now don’t have a second to waste. 

I am honoured to present the Albanese Government’s first Annual Statement on Climate Change. 

Almost exactly one year ago today, the now Prime Minister and I released the climate change and energy policy of the then Opposition. 

Six months ago, we received a mandate from the Australian people to implement that policy. And ever since, we’ve been early stages of doing just that. 

Important in our agenda was the passage of the Climate Change Act, showing the world that Australia is open for business, with a stable investment environment to unleash billions of dollars of renewable energy and zero emissions technology investment. I again thank the Parliament for the passage of the Act. 

We are now one of 22 countries to enshrine our targets in law.

Of course, the Act requires today’s Statement.  

We want to be accountable, transparent, and open about the opportunities, progress, stumbling blocks and challenges in meeting this most important national task. 

In line with this, I’m proud to table this Statement, the accompanying advice of the independent Climate Change Authority, the latest emissions projections and quarterly emissions update in that accountable and transparent way. 

There are and will continue to be challenges...  

But our determination as a Government, and I am very confident as a country, is greater than any challenge. 

Australia’s increased target is to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. 

There are some who call for more.

I understand the sentiment and of course as we have said repeatedly, we see 43 per cent as a floor, not a ceiling.  

But the documents I am tabling today, including the advice from the Climate Change Authority, underlines just what a substantial effort this 43 per cent target requires. 

  • The previous Government left their projected emissions reductions by 2030 at only 30 per cent.
  • The projections I am releasing today show the actions and policies of this Government so far have increased this to a projected 40 per cent.
  • That is, we’ve lifted the outlook by a third in just our first six months.
  • Policies we received a mandate for, and are working on implementing, will lift our result to at least 43 per cent.

To get on a credible path to net zero – you need to achieve 43 per cent reduction by 2030.

This being the first day of the month, 2030 is now just 84 months away. 

As the Climate Change Authority advice makes clear, to achieve this target we will need to achieve the same emissions reduction in the next eight years that has been achieved in the last 18. 

Since 2009, Australia has decarbonised its economy at an average annual rate of 12 million tonnes of carbon per year.

To achieve a 43 per cent reduction by 2030, and net zero by 2050, this decarbonisation rate needs to be at least 17 million tonnes of carbon per year – a 40 per cent increase. 

Increased dispatchable storage will also be essential, after ten years when 4 gigawatts of dispatchable generation left and only one gigawatt of dispatchable capacity entered the market. We will need to install much, much more clean dispatchable power in the coming eight years.

And of course, all this comes in the shade of the biggest energy crisis ever to face the modern world: bigger than the oil crises of the 1970s.

This statement is delivered at a time when climate change and energy prices are two of the most discussed topics in the world – both at board tables and at the dinner table.

The Government’s response is two-fold.  Short term measures will ensure Australian industry and businesses are shielded from the worst of Putin’s weaponisation of energy. 

And a long-term plan to power our economy with the cheapest form of energy – renewable energy – and in turn, to harness the economic opportunities which come with it.

There are some who argue that the world crisis is a reason to slow the progress to renewable energy. 

The opposite is true. As the International Energy Agency puts it, I quote:

The world is struggling with too little clean energy, not too much. Faster clean energy transitions would have helped to moderate the impact of this crisis, and they represent the best way out of it.

We have not wasted a day in beginning to implement the ambitious plan needed to achieve these goals.

A third of Australia’s emissions come from our electricity system. 

Over the next eight years, we will need to transition our electricity system to 82 per cent renewables, from the current base of around 30 per cent.

The most important thing we can do is rewire our nation. 

Because the fact is, there is no transition without transmission. 

In the first six months, we have made good progress with our Rewiring the Nation policy. 

Our first Budget allocated the necessary $20 billion of investment. 

And importantly, we have finalised agreements for the first projects. 

The Marinus Link, which has been all talk for years, will now become a reality. 

These two cables between Tasmania and the mainland will see the Apple Isle move from currently being 100 per cent renewable to become 200 per cent renewable – with the equivalent impact on emissions reduction of taking one million cars off the road. 

Likewise, our investment in the link between Victoria and New South Wales – KerangLink- and co-investments with the Victorian Government in renewable energy zones and offshore wind are vital to our efforts. 

And the Government continues to work at pace on further Rewiring the Nation projects.

In addition, the Budget funded our commitment to 400 community batteries and the program to roll these out will be shortly underway. 

The Budget also abolished the failed Underwriting New Generation Investment program and replaced it with funding for new renewable energy storage. 

A new and cooperative approach around the table with my state and territory energy minister colleagues has seen us strike an important National Energy Transformation Partnership and, for the first time write emissions reduction into the National Energy Objectives.

And I will be consulting with my state and territory colleagues on a capacity investment mechanism in coming weeks.

But renewable energy alone won’t meet our emission reduction targets. We need a whole of economy response.

In fact, industrial emitters are projected to overtake electricity generators as Australia’s leading source of emissions.

We won’t reduce our emissions unless we reduce them in our top 200 industrial emitters. 

And so, we need to reform the Safeguard Mechanism, which governs the emissions of our biggest industrial emitters. 

That process has commenced. Yesterday I introduced legislation which enables credits to be provided to those large industrial facilities which come in under their Safeguard Mechanism baseline – incentivising them to innovate and adopt emissions reduction technology. 

The next stage will see the release of the draft design of our reforms, which will be implemented by regulation. 

This follows the release of a comprehensive consultation paper and consideration of more than 200 submissions. 

I’m not going to pre-empt the release of the draft design today, but I hope the release of today’s projections provides additional context to the size of the task at hand, and why we need every part of the economy to do their bit. 

And I welcome the fact that around 70 per cent of facilities covered by the Mechanism have net zero commitments.

The reformed Mechanism will be a good example of carefully calibrated policy, designed in consultation with industry and business.

But when the old Safeguard Mechanism was so poorly designed that facilities were allowed to increase their emissions – 

Business as usual can’t be the usual business anymore.

Businesses must step up and deliver on their commitments during this critical decade for climate action.

How we travel around our wide country has a big impact on how much we emit. 

The Government inherited a situation in which just 2 per cent of car sales are electric, five times below the international average. 

Last week, the Parliament passed our Electric Vehicle tax cut, cutting $9000 a year from the cost to Australian businesses of providing a $50,000 electric vehicle to employees. 

But there is much, much more to do. 

The Budget funded our Driving the Nation investments in cleaner and cheaper transport, including a National Electric Vehicle Charging Network to roll out a fast charger once every 150km on average along our highways in partnership with the NRMA.

And the Minister for Transport and I are now working through feedback to our National Electric Vehicle Strategy consultation paper, including consideration of Fuel Efficiency Standards.  

Australia is in company with Russia as one of the only major economies without vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and Australians are paying a price for that, with manufacturers sending efficient models to other countries that require them as a matter of law. 

We’re encouraged to have seen more than 100 organisations – including carmakers, energy companies, transport operators, car clubs, businesses and unions – publicly back the Government’s Electric Vehicle Strategy, and noted their call for fuel efficiency standards.

But we know the work can’t stop there.

We are delivering solar banks, to provide access to renewable energy for low-income families.

And leading by transforming our Federal Government itself to be net zero by 2030.

We are also committed to practical actions in the land and agricultural sectors, driving abatement and incentives through carbon markets that have integrity and cut pollution.

And returning our country to full international engagement and leadership in climate, as we did just in the last few weeks at COP27, but also through the Quad, G20 and the Clean Energy Ministerial. 

I’m pleased with how much the Government has achieved in our first six months. 

Pleased, but not satisfied.  We have done a lot in a short time.  But there is so much more to do. 

The Government has a sense of urgency, passion and answers.  But we don’t have all the answers or all the wisdom. 

We are a government which listens.

One of the things we promised to do is restore the role and resourcing of the independent Climate Change Authority, a promise we have kept. 

And I am pleased to table the advice of the Authority today, as well as announce we accept their recommendations. 

In particular the Authority recommends that the Government begin work on a plan to guide the nation’s efforts towards achieving net zero, which we agree with and will prepare.

The Authority also points out that while the technology exists to meet our 2030 targets, there are significant labour market and supply chain challenges, as every country around the world strives to meet their targets.

We agree.

Providing the training and investment in a clean energy and decarbonising workforce was a major focus of our Jobs and Skills Summit in July. Our policy of 10,000 New Energy Apprentices, which we are implementing, is a great start, but more needs to be done.

Ensuring access to resources and supply chain has also been a key focus of my first six months as Minister, particularly in my work with fellow energy ministers from the Quad countries. 

But again, there is much more to do, and we accept the advice from the Climate Change Authority that this will need an ongoing focus. 

In addition, while reducing emissions will always be the most important agenda, the fact is that the climate has changed and is changing, and we must adapt. 

Right around our country, Australians are living with the consequences of climate change right now. 

And more leadership is necessary.  We need a comprehensive national plan for adaptation and climate risk assessment.  

And, working closely with the states and territories that is exactly what we will do. 

Because we don’t have time to waste to take advantage of the opportunities which come with climate action – especially for our regions.

Because while Australia’s regions experience some of the worst of climate change impacts, they also have the opportunity to be at the heart of our transformation and the economic revolution which will come with it.

That’s why Regional Australia is at the core of our plan to ensure Australia takes advantage of the economic opportunities which will come from climate change action.

It’s why we announced in the Budget the creation of a Net Zero Taskforce.

The Taskforce will bring together perspectives from communities, state and territory governments, industries and unions to advise the Government on ensuring regional Australians are first to benefit from Australia’s transformation to a renewable energy superpower.

Because while Regional Australia is right now at the heart of Powering Australia –

It will also be the heart of our clean energy future.

Those who demonise renewable energy ignore the immense potential for new energy industries in regional and rural Australia.

New opportunities which will bring new jobs and new investment – and drive down power bills at the same time.

In this report to the House, I have emphasised the costs of climate change that we are already facing and that will get worse if we don’t act. 

These are real and serious. It is too late to avoid the climate emergency.  

It is our job to act with urgency to avoid the worst of the emergency. 

But I am also hugely optimistic about our future.

Because the world’s climate emergency really is Australia’s jobs opportunity.

“Renewable Energy Superpower”, “Green Energy Export Powerhouse”, “Electricity Factory of our region” -

Whatever your preferred term of description, Australia has this potential.

But only with the right policies. 

Policies this Government is implementing, especially in our regions.

Regions that have powered Australia for so long.

For decades, Australians were told by some that action on climate change would cost jobs. 

This was always a lie. It has never been more of a lie than today. 

The deniers and delays will continue their baseless predictions. 

But Australians know better. 

We can have electric vehicles AND enjoy the weekend.

We can reduce methane AND enjoy barbecues. 

Renewables are the answer to this energy crisis, not the cause.

Our country had a decade of denial and delay. More than enough of it. 

The stakes are high. 

The cost of inaction is huge. The dividend of action is enormous. 

Ambition is important. 

Careful plans, implemented with alacrity to achieve that ambition is even more important. 

Our Government has hit the ground the running with a strong agenda of climate action. 

How we have begun is how we intend to continue.

I began this speech talking about the stewardship of our country by our First Nations people. 

Caring for Country and climate in this changing world is more important than it has ever been. 

And it’s a task this Government joins in partnership with communities, business and our entire Country with passion. 

I commend the first Annual Statement on Climate Change to the House.