Interview with Patricia Karvelas, ABC RN Breakfast

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Chris Bowen is the Minister for Energy and Climate Change and he's my guest this morning. Minister, welcome.

CHRIS BOWEN: Good to be back with you, PK.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Your Department says you'll fall short of your 43 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030. I think they say you'll get to 42 per cent. How are you going to make it, and do you guarantee that you will make it?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well you're right, PK, one of the things we did when we introduced the Climate Change Act is we built in new measures of transparency and accountability, and they have been rolling out. So when the Opposition says we won't reach the target they have an unfortunate problem in that last December I released the latest forecast, which as you said shows 42 per cent, which is very much within striking distance of 43 per cent of course, if we implement the policies that we've outlined.

Now of course since then, since that 42 per cent we've outlined more policies and that 42 per cent did not include, for example, decarbonisation achieved by the National Reconstruction Fund, et cetera, because that policy's still rolling out.

So I'll be releasing the next round of forecasts towards the end of the year and that will obviously show the impact of what we've announced since the last forecast, and obviously update on how we're going in terms of the implementation.

Of course we have the Capacity Investment Scheme, which is the largest renewable energy auction ever undertaken in Australia. That is well under progress, et cetera. These are all developments. Plus the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard we passed through the Parliament just a couple of weeks ago. Been in the too hard basket for 20 years, opposed tooth and nail by the Opposition, now the law of the land.

So these are all the sorts of things which mean that we can say with quite a degree of confidence, PK, that we will achieve our 2030 target.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And I just want to get from you, do you think you must achieve the Paris target? I mean there's no penalty I don't think for not meeting the interim targets. How do you view your obligations?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, I mean it's partly about Paris, of course, and it's partly about emissions reduction, and it's partly about seizing the opportunity for Australia as a renewable superpower.

Now the Opposition's been a mess all weekend. Peter Dutton didn't just say we wouldn't meet the target, and of course confirmed under his policy they certainly wouldn't meet the target with a nuclear fantasy and ripping up the New Vehicle Efficiency Standards and everything else. He actually said he would oppose the target and rip it up. Now that would be a clear breach of the Paris Accord.

Now since then they've tried multiple formulations to try and retrofit some sort of coherence, all of those have failed. I've seen them now saying, "Oh well, look, we won't formally change the target, we just won't try". Well that's also a breach of Article 4.2 of the Paris Accord which says that you have to have measures in place domestically to achieve a target you notified.

Ted O'Brien on your show yesterday and elsewhere was implying, "Oh, we'll have a 2030 target, we'll announce it after the election". Now that either shows incompetence that they can't work out what the impact of their policies are, or dishonesty that they know they'll have terrible impacts, but they just won't share them with the Australian people before the election.


CHRIS BOWEN: So this is all a terrible mess on the part of the Opposition.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: That's on their side but in terms of – you're the Government and you're trying to achieve these objectives. I just want to drill down into your policy if we can.

The Grattan Institute's Tony Wood says your Government underestimated how difficult it was going to be to rollout large amounts of renewable energy in regional Victoria and New South Wales particularly. Is he right? Did you underestimate the difficulty here?

CHRIS BOWEN: No, no. The targets we set were clearly ambitious, as they should be, but also achievable. And, you know, I could point to the fact that AEMO in the last financial year approved 6.8 gigawatts of new generation, up from 4.2 gigawatts the financial year before. That's important.

I could point to the fact that renewable energy is up 25 per cent in our energy market since we came to office. I could point to the fact that under the EPBC Tanya Plibersek has approved 50 renewable energy projects since we came to office. That's enough for 3 million homes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But there is a backlog and there have –

CHRIS BOWEN: Of course.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: – been issues with the renewable rollout.

CHRIS BOWEN: Yes, and we have more to do. We have the Capacity Investment Scheme which we're rolling out, as I said, PK. The biggest investment in renewable energy in Australian history announced by the Prime Minister and I last year and now rolling out.

We also as part of that have, and this hasn't had much attention for reasons I understand, it's a little bit down in the weeds, we also have as part of that renewable energy transformation agreements between myself as the Federal Minister and the State Ministers. We have in principle agreements with New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia. That's important because it means we are all working together to get to 82 per cent, including looking at State planning systems where we need to, to ensure that our Capacity Investment Scheme is working hand in glove with State schemes and State planning.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Can we talk about where we're at, at the moment. The Opposition says when they left office emissions had declined by 29 per cent on those 2005 levels and today they're at about the same level. The figures show that there hasn't been a reduction. When do you expect that to happen?

CHRIS BOWEN: I don't agree with that, PK. Obviously a lot of the policies we put in place take time to work, you know, we've never pretended otherwise.

New Vehicle Efficiency Standards passed the Parliament a couple of weeks ago and we have quite rightly taken time to roll that out over a period of years because it's a big change, been in the too hard basket for 20 years and we're not going to, you know, implement it in one day. It's going to rollout over several years, and obviously it should have been done 20 years ago when you think the average car stays on Australia's roads for 17 years, it's going to take some time to have its impact.

The quarterly figures we put out a couple I didn't put them out, they were released a couple of weeks ago, independently of course, showed around 2 million tonnes reduction. That's good but we have much, much more to do and we have to – the key point is this, if you don't –

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So you concede the point that we haven't, in the last two years we haven't seen the results, right?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, we have seen some emissions reduction, but I agree we have much, much more to do. I'm pleased with what we've done in our first two years. I'm not yet satisfied because we have much more to do, and we have to stay the course. Now if you rip up the Capacity Investment Scheme, if you rip up New Vehicle Efficiency Standards, if you say, as the Opposition does, we're going to pause the rollout of renewables so we have time to do nuclear some time in the 2040s, of course you're not going to meet targets, of course you're not. You're not trying to meet targets. That's the point. They don't want to meet the target. That's the essential difference.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I think they've abandoned the target, there's no doubt about that.

CHRIS BOWEN: Correct, yes.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: That was clear to me yesterday. We don't know what their new target will be. It's about whether you can make yours in terms of this interview. Anthony Albanese –

CHRIS BOWEN: Well it's about both things.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Yeah, of course, but in this interview. Anthony Albanese has left the door open to cutting emissions by up to 75 per cent by 2035. Would you like to see the target get to 75 per cent by 2035?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, let's just break down the 2035 target and the process. We're obliged to do that by next February, and of course we will as the Prime Minister said yesterday. I've also commissioned Climate Change Authority advice again. We put that in the Climate Change Act. It was one of our reforms when we came to office.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And in their advice they say the Climate Change Authority proposal for a 2035 target is between 65 to 75 per cent.

CHRIS BOWEN: No, that's not right, PK. That's not right. They haven't provided the Government with advice yet. They have some consultation papers out as part of that process.


CHRIS BOWEN: They have not yet provided me with advice

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Right, but that's the range –

CHRIS BOWEN: – about the 2035 target.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: – they're looking at in their consultations, isn't it?

CHRIS BOWEN: And they have in the consultation talked about a range and they have more consultations to do. It would be unlawful for me to set a 2035 target before receiving that formal advice. There will be a process. A very public and transparent process, we'll get that advice. That advice will be publicised. If we don't accept that advice, we'll explain why.

This is the process that we've written in, in I think international best practice, into the Climate Change Act to really improve the rigour of setting our climate targets. No more, you know, fake fantasy 2050 ‘technology will fix it’ plans with no advice from the Climate Change Authority. We have a very rigorous process and that will play out between now and next February and then when we have that advice, you know, I'll make a recommendation to the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and I will announce the 2035 target.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Will it be ambitious and on the higher end? Can you just give me the range?

CHRIS BOWEN: It'll be two things. It'll be two no, I'm not going to give you I'm not announcing a target, but it'll be two things, PK. It will be ambitious, and it will be achievable. No point being one and not the other. It's got to be both those things. As, exactly as, our 43 per cent 2030 target is.

Some people, you know, say it's too ambitious, some people say it's not ambitious enough. It is ambitious. It is obviously. It takes effort to reach it. If you set a target that takes no effort to reach it's not really a target. It's got to push behaviour, but it's also got to be achievable and economically sensible. Our 43 per cent emissions reduction target is and we'll have a very rigorous process for our 2035 target as well.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Richie Merzian spoke to me earlier and he suggested that one of your actions should be to lock in the COP 2026 being in Australia and that you should do a deal with Türkiye. Are you going to do that?

CHRIS BOWEN: We are bidding very strongly to host COP 31 in 2026. We have a lot of support. We welcomed support from the United Kingdom just a couple of weeks ago. We have support from France, Germany, United States, New Zealand and Canada all on the record.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And will you do a deal with Türkiye?

CHRIS BOWEN: There's a process through the UNFCCC and the COP process to determine COP bids. We're bidding very, very strongly. I'm very pleased with the amount of support we're receiving. Of course we'd like that sorted, you know, as soon as we can so we can plan to host COP 2026, but we have respect for our fellow bidder, Türkiye, and they have to be able to make their case as well. I'm confident, I'm confident in the amount of support we've received. We're in the Western Europe and other group. I've just run through the support we've received from countries in that group, it's very, very strong. But of course, we have to respect the process.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Minister, thanks for joining us this morning.

CHRIS BOWEN: Good on you, Patricia.