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Does Scott Morrison finally have a climate policy?

Feb 21, 2020 • 12m 51s

Scott Morrison is sandwiched between the climate deniers in his own government on one side and Russell Crowe on the other, as he tries to come up with a new climate policy.

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Does Scott Morrison finally have a climate policy?

167 • Feb 21, 2020

Does Scott Morrison finally have a climate policy?

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:

“When you look at the facts, what you can see is Australia's leading the world on renewable technologies. You know, we're beating and meeting our targets.”

RUBY:

From Schwartz Media I’m Ruby Jones this is 7am.

Under pressure from business, the public and Russell Crowe, Scott Morrison has this week edged closer to unveiling a new climate policy.

So what is the ‘Technology Investment Target’ and could it be a solution to Morrison’s political problems?

Today - Paul Bongiorno on the Prime Minister’s climate dilemma.

So, Paul, what is Scott Morrison’s new position on climate change?

PAUL:

Well, at the start of the week, Ruby, a report came out claiming that Morrison was planning something called a technology investment target.

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:

“So we're making our way and the smart way in dealing with this, to get emissions down, to keep jobs, keep electricity prices down, support rural and regional Australia is to focus on the technology and making sure that that technology is affordable and it is scalable.”

PAUL:

When he was asked about that, he said the report was speculative, but that he does favour technology over taxation in terms of climate policy.

RUBY:

Paul Bongiorno is a columnist for The Saturday Paper.

PAUL:

Now, Morrison is under enormous pressure from his coalition partners, the Nationals and climate deniers in his own ranks not to commit to a net zero emissions target by 2050.

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:

“And currently no one can tell me that going down that path won't cost jobs, won't put up your electricity prices, and won't impact negatively on jobs in the economies of rural and regional Australia…”

PAUL:

So instead, it appears he's come up with the technology investment plan and a goal rather than a target.

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:

“You want to get global emissions down? That's what you need.”

PAUL:

The reason why net zero target by 2050 is so important is because that's what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC scientists gathered from around the world by the United Nations. It's what they say is necessary to contain global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. At the moment, we're on a trajectory to go well beyond that. Morrison hasn't committed to that target, although Australia under Malcolm Turnbull did so at the Paris United Nations conference in 2015.

RUBY:

So Paul, how would this technology investment target actually work? What would it do?

PAUL:

Well, Ruby, it's not exactly clear, but it seems to be a way to encourage investment in low emissions technology. An obvious start is surely would be more electric vehicles. But you know what? That'd be something of a somersault with triple pike for the government. You may remember Morrison, while ridiculing Labor's election pledge to encourage more electric cars, said they would end the weekend because they can't tow your boat or trailer.

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:

“It’s not gonna tow your trailer, it’s not gonna tow your boat, it’s not gonna get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family.”

RUBY:

Okay, so, Paul, why is the Morrison government talking about a technology investment target now?

PAUL:

Well, look, there is a hard deadline coming up, and that's the next United Nations climate change summit. It's in Glasgow. It's being hosted by Boris Johnson, the conservative prime minister of the United Kingdom, who's committed to the target. And it's in November. Angus Taylor, our energy minister is working on the technology investment plan and is planning to present it there.

He may even unveil it next month for all of us to see. But the suspicion is that it will be designed to appease the Nationals and the coal lobby.

Taylor's final handiwork won't be allowed to use the word target because that apparently is too prescriptive goal may keep the skeptics and denies in the tent. Although we can't be sure of that either.

There's real tension here. Morrison's trying to come up with a solution that deals with the divisions in his party and with the coalition party, the Nationals. Those who want real climate action and those who don't, or at the very least, want pretend climate action. Another reason is that the prime minister has acknowledged something needs to be done to address the shift in public opinion.

And Ruby, we've got a real example of the shift at that giant benefit. The fire fight appeal last weekend for the victims of the bushfire catastrophe.

And iconic actor Russell Crowe made a very public intervention, something that doesn't happen all that often from Australian celebrities. The yank ones do it more regularly.

Archival Tape -- Rossel Crowe:

“The principle reason that we as humans are having a measurable negative effect on the heat balance of our global atmosphere is the use of fossil fuels”

PAUL:

Crowe to great applause from the 75000 strong audience who attended that benefit unequivocally said that the climate crisis is being driven by obsession with fossil fuels.

Archival Tape -- Rossel Crowe:

“Ultimately there’s only one way to mitigate climate change, and that is to step away from all fossil fuels on a rapid timeline, and convert the entire country and economy to renewable forms of energy.”

PAUL:

Well, if the prime minister was watching, he'd have to have been doing it through his fingers. That message was pretty clear.

Archival Tape -- Rossel Crowe:

“Let’s lead the way.”

RUBY:

We’ll be back in a moment.

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RUBY:

So, Paul, we're talking about the pressure that's mounting on the Morrison government over climate change. It's coming from the public, but also from the business community...

PAUL:

Well, that's right. Ruby, the Business Council of Australia, which I've got to say has a checkered history when it comes to climate change. Well, it is now committed to the net zero emissions by 2050 target.

Archival Tape -- BCA:

“The science tells us that where we need to be is a net zero emissions by 2050 so let’s start there…”

PAUL:

In fact, the BCA has produced a scoping paper that spells out the enormity of the task based on European modeling, it estimates to reach the target. Australia will need $22 billion worth of investment in new technology every year and a doubling of current renewable energy generation capacity by 2040.

Archival Tape -- BCA:

“And let’s work our way, what are the milestones, how do we hold ourselves accountable, what are the technologies, how do we create jobs in regions…”

PAUL:

Now, by the way, that gigantic figure doesn't assume just government funding. It assumes government policy that would encourage enormous private investment as well. But to get that, we're going to have to have more visionary and certain public policy from the government. The BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott says surely after the summer we've had, both sides of politics can sit down, at least agree on where we want to get to.

Archival Tape -- BCA:

Because we have to, surely, after this summer, draw a line in the sand, and find a way through as a country...

RUBY:

Okay. So the business community wants both sides of politics to sit down and start talking about climate policy. So what is Labor doing on this?

PAUL:

Well, Labor took a target of 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 to the last election that you may remember also was attacked as economy wrecking ambition, while a new leader, Anthony Albanese, says, well, it's now up for review and the main reason for that is we're a lot closer to 2030 and we don't have the original 10 years to get there. That's when Labor first made that promise.

Archival Tape -- Andrew Clenell Sky News:

“Why are you afraid of endorsing that target that you took to the election?”

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese

“That was in 2015. That was a 2015 target established for 15 years’ time. Guess what, Andrew? There’s no Tardis. I can’t go back in time…”

PAUL:

So, Ruby, the party is expected to announce new targets, that is interim targets by the end of the year. But we obviously don't know what they are yet.

Archival Tape -- Andrew Clenell Sky News:

”So, it is too late for a 45 per cent reduction, is that what you are saying?”

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese

“ I’m not saying that at all.”

Archival Tape -- Andrew Clenell Sky News:

“Well, you seem to be.”

Archival Tape -- Anthony Albanese

“No, I’m not saying that at all…”

PAUL:

Though Albanese is expected to announce today that is this Friday his recommitment to the net zero by 2050 target. He and his relevant shadow minister, Mark Butler, have already taken that decision.

RUBY:

Okay, so there's increasing public and business pressure for politicians to get serious on climate change, but both parties are still scrambling to work out exactly what their policies are. Paul, to Australians believe anyone on this at this point?

PAUL:

Well, the answer to that question, Ruby, there's some helpful research from the Australian National University and what it found is the diabolical problem for Morrison is his credibility tank is running on near empty. According to this new poll, only 27 per cent of Australians are confident or very confident in the government.

The trust deficit is certainly not being helped by the coalition's open tug of war over climate and energy.

The poll, which is from the ANU’s research unit, found quite strong disapproval of the government's handling of the bushfires. And when it came to confidence in Morrison, his score was 3.92 out of 10. And that's a decline in his popularity from 5.25 in the poll. The ANU did back in June. And it puts him into negative territory.

So we're concentrating on the government because they are in charge, at least for the next two years. And the issue is and this is backed up by Newspoll and the essential poll this year that the electorate no longer believes Morrison is credible on whatever he says about climate change or anything else, for that matter.

RUBY:

Paul, thanks so much for talking to me today.

PAUL:

Thanks, Ruby. Always a pleasure.

RUBY:

Also in the news today —

A police officer has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of Yamatji woman Joyce Clarke.

Joyce Clarke, a 29 year old mother of one, was shot on a suburban street in Geraldton, Western Australia in September last year.

The police officer appeared in a Perth court today wearing a singlet… where the magistrate granted a suppression order on his identity.

And at least 10 people are dead after a mass shooting in the German town of Hanau. The gunman fired into two shisha bars just after 10pm, before driving off from the scene.

Police have confirmed that the suspect was later found dead at his house, but are yet to reveal the motivation behind the attack.

--

7am is produced by Ruby Schwartz, Atticus Bastow, and Michelle Macklem.

Elle Marsh is our features and field producer, in a position supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Osman Faruqi. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.

New episodes of 7am are released every weekday morning. Make sure you don’t miss out by subscribing on your favourite podcast app.

You can rate and review us too, if you’d like.

I’m Ruby Jones, see you next week.

Sandwiched between the climate deniers in his government and growing public pressure for real action on climate change, Scott Morrison has edged closer to unveiling a new climate policy. Could the technology investment target solve Morrison’s political problems, or will it leave both sides underwhelmed? Paul Bongiorno on the climate dilemma faced by the PM.

Guest: Columnist for The Saturday Paper Paul Bongiorno.

Background reading:

Scott Morrison's slow burn in The Saturday Paper
The Saturday Paper
The Monthly

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7am is hosted by Ruby Jones. The show is produced by Ruby Schwartz, Atticus Bastow, Elle Marsh and Michelle Macklem. Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Osman Faruqi. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.

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167: Does Scott Morrison finally have a climate policy?