Interview with Sabra Lane, ABC AM

SABRA LANE: The United Nations annual Climate Summit is under way in Dubai as representatives from 200 countries try to agree on plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures.

A draft of the final agreement shows negotiators are considering calling for an orderly and just phase-out of fossil fuels, although we won't find what's been agreed to until next week.

The Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen heads to Dubai later today, and he joined me a short time ago.

Chris Bowen, does Australia back this draft text pushing for a formal phase-out of fossil fuels?

CHRIS BOWEN: We certainly back a strengthening of language and efforts around mitigation of climate change, and that's the negotiations I'm going into this evening.

In my experience, Sabra, those words change around a lot during the negotiations, and some other countries have already indicated that they're not comfortable with that sort of language, but we'll certainly be backing a strong improvement to language on mitigation.

As well as representing Australia, I also Chair the Umbrella group of negotiators, which is Australia, US, UK, New Zealand, Canada and a number of other countries, and obviously I'll be consulting with them and putting our position, Australia's position, alongside the position of like minded that we need to see a step up in global action on mitigating emissions.

SABRA LANE: Is Australia comfortable with those words phase-out?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well obviously as I said, Sabra, in my experience those words change a lot from draft to even the first negotiation session through the night. I would certainly -

SABRA LANE: But it's a simple - sorry, it's a simple yes or no.

CHRIS BOWEN: Sabra, if I could just finish my point. And certainly we are supporting stronger language on that sort of thing, but in my experience, as I said, some countries like China and the African Union have already said they are not comfortable with that sort of language. So that makes the negotiations difficult.

So in my experience you go into these negotiations with a degree of flexibility, but you also go in pushing for stronger and more action. That's what I'll be doing on Australia's behalf, and that's what I'll be doing as Chair of the Umbrella group of negotiators.

So the COP works in these instances through groups. The African Union has already indicated they're not comfortable with that. On behalf of the Umbrella group, I'll be pushing for stronger action.

SABRA LANE: So phase-out or phase down, what is Australia comfortable with?

CHRIS BOWEN: Look, certainly a properly phrased move towards phase-out I would be comfortable with, but as I said, in my experience these words change around a lot.

SABRA LANE: Australia has signed this so called Glasgow statement, meaning that we've agreed to stop financing international climate polluting projects. Does that begin immediately?

CHRIS BOWEN: Yes. We have signed that last night, and this reflects the position the Government has taken since our election, but it formalises it, the clean energy transformation partnership formalises that undertaking, and what our government has been putting in place since the election. It's really aligning our international financing efforts, whether it be aid or loans or other things, on the global decarbonisation effort, and yes, that takes effect immediately.

SABRA LANE: It's being reported that Australia will not agree to contribute to the summit's global Loss and Damage Fund, is that right?

CHRIS BOWEN: I’ve seen those reports. I'll be - we've made very clear - firstly on loss and damage, we've been very active in the conversation. We've had a representative on the transition group towards loss and damage. Our key point has been that it must support the Pacific, and we have been arguing for clear and defined support for the Pacific.

We'll be saying more about our approach to global finance, including the Pacific Resilience Fund and other funds, over the next few days.

SABRA LANE: But it sounds like you won't agree to that global Loss and Damage Fund, but you'll agree to funds for the Pacific?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, the Pacific Resilience Fund is in effect a Loss and Damage Fund for the Pacific specifically focused on the Pacific, and it's come from the Pacific, and certainly we are very strongly engaged with the Pacific on the development of that Pacific Resilience Fund.

As I think our listeners would understand, Australia wants to see the Pacific's issues elevated, and the Pacific, you know, in my experience, and I talk a lot to my Pacific climate counterparts, there are a number of global funds which they say have not worked for them, and we want them working for them, and that's the bottom line that I'll be bringing to all these conversations.

SABRA LANE: Australia is hoping to host the 2026 UN Climate Summit known as COP31, will you find out in Dubai?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, at the moment all our conversations are on who's going to host next year, Sabra, it's a difficult situation. I think it's, you know, difficult to be saying we want to know who's hosting 2026 when it hasn't been decided who's hosting 2024, but we will be involved in that conversation across the board. And these things, you know, are focused on the most immediate. Nobody has determined who's hosting next year.

Formally 2025 hasn't been determined, although we can work solidly on the basis that Brazil will be hosting, but we'll be involved in those conversations again.

SABRA LANE: There's been some criticism about Dubai's hosting of this meeting. Well known climate campaigner, the former US Vice President Al Gore says that Dubai has abused the public's trust by naming the Chief Executive of one of the largest and least responsible oil companies in the world to head the event. Does he have a point?

CHRIS BOWEN: Look, I can only speak from my experience, and my experience with the COP President, Dr Al Jaber, has been very positive, very strong. He's been very active. I get, you know, WhatsApp messages from him all the time asking about Australia's views on various things; he wants a good outcome. He's also the Chief Executive of one of the world's largest renewable energy companies.

So look, I think the point about this, Sabra, is if we only talk to the people we agree with all the time and then talk to countries like us, then we are not going to make progress on climate change. We have to really work hard to bring the world together. That means working with countries that are at different stages in the journey.

Every country in the world is either a fossil fuel exporter or a fossil fuel importer. Just sort of singling out certain countries I don't think is a particularly strong way to get a strong outcome. What we need to do is work across the board. That's certainly the co operative approach I bring to the negotiating table.

SABRA LANE: Chris Bowen, thanks for talking to AM.

CHRIS BOWEN: Good on you, Sabra.