Speech to the Lowy Institute


As we gather tonight on Gadigal Land and acknowledge the elders of our First Peoples, let us 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.

But there is another truth: that within the energy transition is one of the elements of closing the gap of Indigenous disadvantage in our country.

I've been thinking a lot about this in recent weeks, as we all consider the way forward for reconciliation in our country.

I recently received a visit from a delegation of Canadian First Peoples.

Did you know that in Canada, around 20 per cent of renewable energy initiatives have a strong element of Indigenous ownership, providing income and employment for Canadian First Peoples?  

I've been discussing this with my Canadian counterpart and friend Stephen Guilbeaut, and also with the First Nations Clean Energy Advisory Committee which our government established.  

In so many ways, getting this energy transition right is the key to our nation's economic prosperity, and I think getting First Nations involvement in renewable energy right can play a big role in the future economic health of Australia's Indigenous peoples. 


Good evening.

It’s a great pleasure to be here tonight.  

It's far from my first speech to the Lowy Institute, but it does happen to be my first as Minister for Climate Change and Energy. 

Michael – thank you for your invitation to address the Institute.

Ever since we met as Sydney University students together 30 years ago, Michael has been a good friend.  He was a deep thinker then. He's one of our country's leading thinkers now. 

And for the past 20 years, the Lowy Institute has admirably shaped major conversations around foreign policy and Australia’s place in the world, driving bipartisan and thought-provoking analysis.

Congratulations on your 20-year milestone.


Friends, we came into government with a big agenda.

To drive a domestic energy transformation, lift our climate ambition and put the nation on a new trajectory. 
To provide new leadership, at home and abroad. 

To turn our country’s climate policy from an international embarrassment into a means of international engagement. 

To capitalise on the best comparative advantage our country has ever been presented with –
And make our country a renewable energy superpower. 

We’ve made a good start - but the job is far from over. 

I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made, but not yet satisfied. 

In the first weeks of the Albanese Government, the Prime Minister and I wrote to the UNFCCC with Australia’s updated NDC and 2030 target.

A lift from 26-28 per cent to 43 per cent.

We were joined at the signing ceremony by representatives of the business community, trade union movement, energy users and energy generators, manufacturers and climate groups.

Sure, this coming together was symbolism. 

But it was important symbolism. 

I think it sent several messages. 

That the broad swathe of Australians wanted the climate wars to end. 

That not only had the Government of Australia changed, but that the country had changed. 

And that we are all in on action on climate change: business, unions, climate groups and the makers and users of energy united on working on this most important economic transition, as we must be. 

Much has happened since, and I won’t be detaining you tonight with a detailed summary of our climate policy achievements over the past 18 months. 

But it’s been a busy period.

My friend James Shaw, the outgoing New Zealand Minister for Climate Change, was kind enough to recently observe that in his opinion, the Albanese Government did more in its first 12 months on climate policy than the Ardern Government did in five years. 

This includes the passage of the Climate Change Act, enshrining our targets in law to send a message to renewable energy investors that we are a stable and welcoming policy environment.  

The Act also enshrined the annual Climate Change statement to Parliament, and I’ll be making the second statement next week -

Updating the Parliament and the nation on progress, obstacles and the way forward in an open and transparent manner. 

And we’ve reformed the Safeguard Mechanism, delivering real and meaningful emissions reductions from our industrial sector in a way which encourages on going industrial and economic resilience in Australia.

I’ve been pleased that since the reforms were passed, major industrial powerhouses committed to decarbonisation:

Orica and Bluescope have announced investments in Australian manufacturing worth billions of dollars and have cited the policy certainty created by our reforms as essential for that investment. 

The key to our targets and policies and that each one as far as I am concerned has to meet a twin test:
It must be ambitious and achievable. 

We need to stretch our country’s efforts, but this ambition needs to be considered in the context of a deep understanding of our economic strengths, challenges and opportunities. 

And our current targets are not without challenges.

But that is because they are ambitious; With enormous dividends.

Cleaner, cheaper, more reliable energy into the domestic grid.

Capitalising on the jobs and investment inherent in the net zero transformation.

Delivering real emissions reduction for future generations at home and abroad.

And, of course, the case for ambition and urgency is strong.
In 2023, Australia has already seen devastating bushfires across multiple states – before we’ve even hit summer.

In Queensland, more homes have already burned in the state this year than during the 2019–2020 Black Summer.

In southern Queensland, October brought the third highest number of daytime hotspots seen this century – trends detected by heat-sensing satellites that show fire activity. 

And at the peak these fires did not ease at night - five times more nighttime hotspots than average have been detected compared to previous Octobers.

Not only are we seeing hotter and dryer conditions this summer, but we are seeing it around the clock – leaving our firefighters and emergency services increasingly stretched.

And this mirrors what we are seeing globally:

Last week medical journal Lancet issued their eighth Countdown report, monitoring the impacts of climate change on health and productivity.

In 2023, the world saw the highest global temperatures in over 100,000 years, and heat records were broken in all continents through 2022. 

Adults older than 65 years and infants younger than one year, for whom extreme heat can be particularly life-threatening, are now exposed to twice as many heatwave days as they would have experienced in 1986–2005.

We cannot ignore these realities and the need to stay the course, both domestically and internationally.
With this in mind, tonight I’d like to discuss:

Our international climate position, 18 months into government, including:

Our domestic agenda, which is critical to establishing credibility and ensuring Australians benefit from the net zero transition,

Establishing our nation as a renewable energy superpower,

And the international climate reset we have seen since we were elected.

I will also give an update of the key issues leading for Australia and like-minded countries in the lead up to COP28 in just over a weeks’ time. 


One of the key pillars of our energy plan is the target of 82 per cent renewables in our energy mix by 2030 – up from around 33 per cent when we came into government.

This is no small challenge. 

It will see us almost triple the share of renewables in our grid.

It requires growing and modernising our transmission and distribution infrastructure – a considerable undertaking in a vast nation of large distances like Australia.

And despite what some detractors say, it’s actually in line with like-minded countries, and with global world trends.

The International Energy Agency’s latest renewable analysis shows global renewable capacity is expected to increase by almost 2400 GW (almost 75%) between 2022 and 2027.  

In 2023 global investment in solar power is set to eclipse oil investment for the first time.

Renewable energy capacity in the United States is forecast to increase 75 per cent, or over 280 GW from 2022 to 2027, in line with their target of 100 per cent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035.

Canada’s aim is 90% renewable and zero emissions energy by 2030 and 100% by 2035. 

Ireland’s National Development Plan increased the targeted share of renewables in electricity consumption to 80 per cent by 2030.

And in Italy, the Ministry of Ecological Transition proposed increasing the share of renewable electricity to 72 per cent. 

Germany raised its 2030 renewable electricity target from 65% to 80% and accelerated the pace of solar PV and wind expansion by 2030.

Australia’s ambition is not only in line with global trends – it’s critical for our domestic energy future.

For costs, for reliability, and for domestic energy security.

82 per cent will deliver cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy for Australians.

We know renewable energy is cheaper. 

Just one example - Australian households are saving up to 57 per cent on their energy bills if they have rooftop solar installed. 

They are also cleaner – critical to the achievement of our emissions reduction targets and avoiding catastrophic climate change.

But increasing renewables in our grid is also vital for reliability and energy security.

In 2022, Australia’s coal power fleet suffered thousands of hours of forced outages, leaving the grid short of forecast coal generation capacity for nearly one-quarter of the year.

Expert analysis of coal plant performance finds that the units are collectively unavailable for a much longer period (or volume of energy) than was the case several years ago.

This isn’t a political view, it’s a practical reality and reinforces the urgency of the transition to renewables.
The importance of our plan to get to 82 per cent –

For affordability.

For cleaner energy.

AND for reliability.

The other overlooked fact about renewable energy is that it provides us with a strategic advantage when it comes to energy security.

We have an abundance of wind and solar resources, enough to power our economy several times over. For instance, we receive 58 million petajoules of solar radiation per year – 10,000 times larger than our total energy consumption.

And ongoing geopolitical circumstances are reinforcing just how important these resources are.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine exposed deep vulnerabilities in global supply chains.

The war in Ukraine has had devastating impacts on energy security, with much of Europe held captive over the supply of oil and gas from Russia. 

We have seen how this European energy supply crisis has cascaded across the world, highlighting the flaws in energy security reliant on concentrated fossil fuel supply chains.

But… There’s no geopolitical crisis that can stop the sun shining or the wind blowing. 

Last month, the International Energy Agency released the 2023 World Energy Outlook, with energy security a central theme.

And as the report says, the Russian invasion has shown that, and I quote:

“Domestically produced clean energy can clearly be an asset at times of geopolitical stress.”

And there’s no nation better set up to take advantage of this than Australia.

Of course, a reliable renewable system must be buttressed with robust storage, transmission and where possible, sovereign domestic manufacturing of key elements of the renewable supply chain – that’s exactly what our policies are designed to achieve.

Reducing reliance on and exposure to international fossil fuel headwinds is good for domestic energy security, and our plans to transform our energy grid to 82 per cent renewable energy is essential for both this, and energy reliability.


Secondly, setting our nation up as a renewable energy superpower will be critical to our continued future as a reliable energy supplier to the world, and is a key driver of our domestic and international energy conversations.

Properly managed, this is another win-win. 

Our domestic decarbonisation efforts are important. 

But they pale in comparison to the emissions reductions achieved if we are able to harness and export our renewable energy to help countries without our abundant renewable resources to decarbonise. 
And, of course, the economic dividend for our country is enormous. 

Across green hydrogen and ammonia, green metals, refined critical minerals and clean technology manufacturing including battery and solar supply chains. 

Our fundamental comparative advantage in the future is our renewable energy potential – our tremendous solar radiation and wind resources can provide the basis for industries powered by cheaper, cleaner energy. 
Our 82 per cent target is critical to laying the foundations for our superpower plan.

But it doesn’t stop with 82 per cent, which is why we are developing our sectoral plans to set us on the journey to net zero emissions. 

These are critical to our renewable superpower ambitions for two reasons underpinned by a basic reciprocity.

One, we know that we will need to mobilise and attract significant global capital to achieve these ambitions, and having a clearly articulated plan for the transition is no longer optional, but a baseline expectation of capital markets. 

Two, we will achieve both goals – net zero emissions and development of new export opportunities – far more efficiently by working on shared challenges with our trading partners. 

Just as our historically prosperous industries have developed through the exchange of capital and knowledge between Australia and our trading partners, so too will the new clean energy industries be built in partnership with these countries, with Australians benefiting from the upside of the jobs and investment this will generate.

Whether it’s ENEOS’ investments in renewable hydrogen in Queensland, or POSCO’s plans to invest in renewable hydrogen and green iron production in the Pilbara, these international partnerships will underpin our shared domestic and regional prosperity as the world decarbonises.

We continue to work with the United States through our historic Climate, Critical Minerals and Clean Energy Transformation Compact to harness opportunities for Australia.  

The agreement between President Biden and Prime Minister Albanese to make climate and clean energy the third pillar of the alliance was no small thing.  

Energy Secretary Granholm and I have already had several conversations about the operationalisation of this agreement and there were further announcements on the practical work Australia and the United States will do together during the Prime Minister’s recent visit. 

Australia’s net zero commitment and renewable superpower ambition are the twin engines in the Government’s plan to harness the opportunities of the global energy transformation.

Our approach is ambitious, seeking to play to our strengths and position Australia’s economy to capitalise on opportunities as our trading partners decarbonise. 

Over 97 per cent of our exports go to destinations with net zero commitments.

But as well as cultivating our international partnerships, this vision also includes backing our Australian businesses to become a bigger part of the energy transition, both here and abroad.

This means backing the industries that are key to our renewable superpower ambition by supporting their ability to play to their strengths.

Whether it’s Hysata building a game-changing electrolyser technology, or SunDrive manufacturing high efficiency solar cells in Australia, the Government is supporting ambitious Australian manufacturers to go big and to do so here.

This helps us to achieve our targets, diversify supply chains and is supporting new jobs and opportunities in our regions.

This is about developing long-term competitiveness through clean energy, while maximising the benefits to our energy transition, to our economic security and resilience, to our strategic interests, to our people and our regions.

In the last few weeks, we saw Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners planning to build a solar polysilicon plant in Queensland to supply international solar panel manufacturers looking to diversify their supply chains.

This major plant being considered for Townsville would be among the first in the world to rely heavily on renewable energy.

Attracting major investors like Quinbrook is possible when we have the fundamental comparative advantages, but to attract many more such projects we know will come from having an active, clear industry policy to bring investment, jobs and green growth to this country.

The challenges of this task we have set ourselves are self-evident.

We are competing for finite resources in a tight global supply chain – whether it’s wind turbine components or electrolysers.

We are going to have to grow the clean energy workforce by many thousands, including 32,000 more electricians in the next seven years just as one example. 

These challenges cannot be ignored and cannot be overcome by sitting on the sidelines. 

Ultimately, we are also competing for global capital, and our superpower plan is our best asset in this race.

A clearly articulated, ambitious plan to become a renewable energy superpower, by leveraging our trading and investment relationships and backing our innovative clean energy businesses, is a crucial signal to the world that Australia is open for business.


Now of course, none of this ambition and domestic action comes in a vacuum. 

In no small way, modern foreign policy and climate policy are intrinsically linked. 

The combination of increased climate change ambition –

A genuine willingness to engage with like-minded nations –

Reprising our role as a member of the Pacific family and our responsibility to represent our region – 

Has seen Australia move from a reluctant spectator internationally, and often a detractor – to a constructive interlocutor and, more than that to a nation willing to play a role in keeping with Australia’s ambitions for ourselves and our region. 

The Indo-Pacific counts for more than half of the world’s energy consumption and emissions. 

And the region is confronting the very real impacts of climate change. 

Nowhere is the climate threat more profound than in the Pacific, with Kiribati, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands only a few metres above sea level.

The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union recently announced by Prime Ministers Albanese and Natano shows what practical but ambitious leadership looks like.

Where Australia has answered a request from Tuvalu to help safeguard its future through a special mobility pathway and a security commitment, while also boosting our assistance for Tuvalu’s adaptation and coastal resilience. 

And, of course, we have put forward our bid to host COP31 in partnership with the Pacific, to elevate Pacific voices and experiences in international climate discussions. 

Being back at the table enables us to advocate for and advance our region’s interests – 

While promoting our domestic agenda and building stronger economic links through partnerships and cooperation.


In just over a weeks’ time, we will again be playing our role at COP. 

Last year, I was pleased to be asked by the COP President to co-chair the negotiations on climate finance.  

This was the first time Australia had been asked to play such a role in a decade. 

Having not been asked to play such a role in 10 years, we have now been asked twice in a row.  

COP President Dr Sultan Al Jaber has asked Australia to co-chair the discussions on adaptation and I have asked my friend and Assistant Minister Jenny McAlister to undertake this role, and she’ll do it very well. 

Now, it’s fair to say that some have become disillusioned not only about the role of COP, but about the ability of our multilateral forums to progress substantial change.

I understand.

For example, in July I travelled to India to represent Australia in both the Energy and Environment G20 Ministerials.

Fine and flowery speeches in the plenary sessions were not backed up with ambition and intent in the behind closed doors negotiations.  

In negotiations based on consensus as both the COP and G20 are, it doesn’t take much to block progress. 

I don’t blame those observing proceedings who will question the ability of such multilateral forums to achieve anything while some nations are so determined to block progress.

We are clear eyed, but not disillusioned about the challenges of multilateralism.

The fact is that change is hard. 

We are talking about some of the most fundamental and existential questions of international climate change, and asking nations to change their economies and trajectories will come with challenges.

Yes – it is urgent. Yes – it is necessary. But there are challenges.

It is more important than ever that we stay the course. Because even incremental change can still make substantial progress.

Need to recognise countries will move at different paces and on different paths – 

But the direction of travel is clear and agreed. And we need to stay the course.

And hard work does make a difference.

Before the Paris Accord was struck, the world was on track for close to 4 degrees of warming.  

Current global pledges to 2030 has brought this estimate down to around 3 degrees, and closer to 2 degrees if longer term net zero pledges are realised.

Better but still too high.

And in our own context, the looming Glasgow COP contributed to the maelstrom of political pressure which saw the Morrison Government sign up to net zero by 2050.  

The very least they could have done, and without any detail or policy to get there - 

But a step, nonetheless. 

So change may be incremental, but it can add up to something substantial.

The US/ China Sunnylands Statement – issued following the meeting between President Xi and President Biden – is another signal for cautious, pragmatic optimism ahead of COP28.

And dialogue between the world’s two largest economies and emitters ahead of COP28 is a positive development. 

The statement provides some reason to hope.  

The failure at G20 provides us with caution, but the Sunnylands statement shows us that it pays to keep working at it, as we will do in the lead up and right through COP28. 


Moving on to Australia’s approach at COP28.

One of the key outcomes of this year’s Conference will be the first ever Global Stocktake which is due to conclude at COP28.

It intends to be a frank assessment of where the world is at.

If the fires, floods and extreme conditions across the world are painting the picture of the urgency of climate action – 

The Global Stocktake is the accompanying label, explaining the details of where we stand and where we need to go.

On enhancing action, and on the financial and technical support needed.

It will be a large, substantial and contested discussion, with my good friend from Denmark, Dan Jorgensen, a co-facilitator.

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook found that for the first time, peaks in global demand for coal, oil and natural gas are all visible this decade, thanks to the combination of growing momentum behind clean energy technologies and structural economic shifts around the world has major implications for fossil fuels.

And Australia will again be arguing for stronger mitigation language –

Glasgow was a step forward.

In Sharm-el-Sheik likeminded countries tried to progress further.

And were forced to hold the line, just to defend the status quo from Glasgow. 

In Dubai, we will again be arguing for a strong position and stronger mitigation outcomes.  

We want this COP to be about stronger, practical outcomes, not just maintaining the status quo.

We will also be supporting a tripling of global renewables capacity and doubling of global energy efficiency efforts. 

Australia plays a reasonably unique role in this conversation.

Alongside our friends from Canada, another traditional fossil fuel-based economy in the middle of a major transition and arguing for progressive outcomes in international fora, we can play the role of a country that is dealing with the practical implications of the transition each and every day. 

This is no theoretical exercise for us.  

We come to the discussions not inhibited by our experience with fossil fuels but informed by it.  

And we come to the discussion as a nation fully seized by the opportunities for renewables. 

That’s why our stance shouldn’t be underestimated: we know the challenges. But we also know the opportunities, and the imperative.

The second major topic of discussion will be the creation of a new fund for loss and damage.

Australia supported the decision at COP27 to establish new funding arrangements, including a fund, for supporting particularly vulnerable developing countries to address loss and damage from climate impacts. 

We’ve contributed constructively to the design of the new fund and future funding arrangements, with our representation on the Transitional Committee which served as a drafting group, and have engaged widely with Pacific countries to get it right for them. 

Our objective is to ensure that these discussions deliver practical outcomes and maximum impact for the Pacific, and other countries who are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts.

This last point is critical, and I want to spend a few moments on it. 

Australia is of the strong opinion that funding arrangements must deliver for the most climate vulnerable countries, drawing from a broad donor base, including private and innovative sources of finance.

In 1992, the world agreed to “common but differentiated responsibilities”. 

That is to say, all countries need to act, but wealthier countries who have greater capacity and contributed the most to emissions need to contribute more to climate action and finance. 

This was and is of course the right approach. 

But the world wasn’t set in stone in 1992.  

Just because a country wasn’t wealthy or was not a major emitter in 1992 doesn’t mean the same is the case 30 years later. 

Nor should the contributions of countries be set in stone either. 

Let me be even clearer, the world has changed a lot since 1992.  

The list of “annex one” countries who are required to make the larger contributions to climate finance would not be the same as it was if we were constructing that list today.  

The 2015 Paris Agreement recognised that a countries’ capability and emissions evolve over time.

It makes clear that our respective responsibilities should be seen in the light of these different national circumstances.

It’s time to have that discussion. 

Arguing that climate finance should come from as broad a donor base as possible is about maximising the flow of funds to help the developing world deal with climate change which is ultimately in all our interest. 

And just as I argued with my friends the then-New Zealand Minister James Shaw and the Canadian Minister Steven Guilbeaut, Australia will continue to argue for sea-change in the way multilateral development banks treat climate finance, with a view to leveraging multiples more of private and public investment in mitigation and adaption. 

Our position at COP comes on the back of Australia’s announcement we will re-join the Green Climate Fund, with a modest contribution to be announced before the end of the year.

We will also contribute to the new Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF), a Pacific-built trust fund that will be established to invest in small-scale climate and disaster resilient projects.

Australia focused on delivering practical assistance to the region – delivering targeted funding to areas of need.

We’ve boosted our infrastructure investments and established a dedicated climate and infrastructure partnership to deliver climate-resilient investments for Pacific needs. 

And we are now on track to deliver $3 billion towards the global climate finance goal - $1 billion more than our previous commitment.

We have taken on board feedback from our partners in the Pacific on the best ways to direct climate finance efforts and ensure all elements deliver for Pacific priorities. 

And we will continue with this lens as discussions about financing occur.


Friends, “Keep 1.5 Alive” was the rallying call for the Glasgow COP. 

We shouldn’t forget it for this coming COP. 

That’s why Australia will be supportive of strong COP outcomes. 

But every increment of a degree above 1.5 makes a huge difference to our planet and the health of our people. 

Since May 2022, we have been restoring Australia’s climate leadership at home and abroad. That’s the approach we will continue to take in Dubai in coming weeks and beyond. 

It’s in the interest of our country, our region and our planet. 

The stakes are high.  So is our determination.