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Question Time: Fossil Fuel Projects

On Tuesday 22 November 2022, I asked the Minister for Climate Change and Energy about why the government is continuing to fund and support fossil fuel projects that will ruin our chances of keeping warming under 1.5C. You can read the full transcript below.

E WATSON-BROWN: My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy. Minister, last week in Egypt you said:

… if we're not trying to keep to 1.5C, then what are we here for? Because the difference between 1.5C and 1.7C in terms of the impact on the planet is enormous.

Why then has your government adopted policies that are not compatible with keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, such as the more than $40 billion in the budget for fossil fuel subsidies, including the gas and petrochemical hub in Darwin Harbour and a new gas project in Victoria?

C BOWEN: I thank the honourable member for her question. Yes, the difference between 1.5 per cent and 1.7 per cent is enormous in terms of the impact on the world and the impact on Australia. That's why we're fighting so hard. Australia is the developed country with the most to lose from climate change. We are the country most exposed in the developed world to natural disasters. If climate change is unchecked, the Black Summer bushfires which we so devastatingly experienced in 2019 will be the average by 2040. That's what is at stake here. The floods that so many Australians are experiencing right now will become, as they already are, more and more common. That's why we fought so hard last week to maintain the commitment to 1.5 degrees, and that's why we are working so hard to implement, in just 85 months, our 2030 target. For a task of this size, 85 months is not long. It would have been better if we'd started 10 or 12 years ago, but we're starting in 2022 to meet this 2030 target, so that's why this is important.

The honourable member asked about certain projects. The Greens yesterday moved a disallowance of one of those projects in the other place, and we opposed that. I'll tell you why we opposed it, because this is a point of difference with the Greens party: because contracts have been signed on that project. This was a decision taken by the previous government, not a decision I would have taken—not a grant we would have made—but contracts have been signed, and one thing this side of politics won't do is rip up contracts that have been signed by governments. We will respect that and we won't create sovereign risk. That is a genuine difference from the Greens party. So yes, we will oppose disallowances like that when they bring into question sovereign risk, because we want Australia to be a renewable energy export powerhouse, and to do that you need to be a reliable partner. You need to have credibility in the export markets. People need to know that if your government signs the contract it will be honoured.

The other thing we need, if we are going to be a renewable energy powerhouse, is the capacity to export green hydrogen and ammonia. To do that you need to invest in our ports and in our gas facilities in our ports, to export that green hydrogen when the technology allows. We need to make those investments now or we won't be a renewable energy superpower. We say we have a hydrogen strategy in Australia, and we do, but so do 20 other countries. So we need to be constantly investing to increase our capacity not only to generate green hydrogen but to export it. That's exactly what we will continue to do.

So there are some points of differences with the Greens on this. We will not rip up contracts. We will protect sovereign risks. Even if they are decisions we would not have made an office, as this one is, we will continue to ensure that that important matter of sovereign risk is protected.

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