Australia will honour Paris climate agreement, Simon Birmingham says

Australia will honour Paris climate agreement, Simon Birmingham says

Trade minister fails to name mechanism for emissions reduction as energy policy looms as key issue in Wentworth byelection

Simon Birmingham
Honouring Paris commitments would include encouraging ‘adoption of new technologies’, says Simon Birmingham. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The trade minister, Simon Birmingham, has claimed Australia will honour its Paris climate agreement commitments but failed to name a mechanism for emissions reduction in government policy.

In the wake of the Coalition government removing the emissions reduction component from its signature national energy guarantee before Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull, the issue is shaping up as a major test before the Wentworth byelection.

Turnbull’s son Alex has spruiked for donations on behalf of Labor’s candidate Tim Murray, citing energy policy as a key consideration when the progressive Liberal inner-city electorate goes to the polls.

On Sunday Birmingham said that Morrison “has made very clear we will continue to honour our commitments” including the Paris climate agreement, as Australia had done for the first and second round of Kyoto targets.

“We continually see, in terms of that abatement target required to meet the 2030 targets, that gap is closing with each update and we’ll continue to work on the policy settings to make sure that is achieved,” he told Sky News.

Asked if this would include emissions reduction in the electricity, agriculture or transport industry, Birmingham said the government would “encourage adoption of new technologies and new practices, all of which have played a big role meeting targets to date”.

“We will continue to watch closely in terms of the projections around the abatement task and work hard to make sure Australia meets and fulfils our obligations.”

On Saturday Scott Morrison said that Australia’s commitments to its Paris targets “haven’t changed”.

“Australia stands on its record. I mean, we hit our first target, exceeded it by 128m tonnes,” he told reporters in Indonesia. “We’re on track to meet our second Kyoto target and exceed it by 294m tonnes.”

Alex Turnbull has intervened in the Wentworth campaign over the issue of energy policy, calling for donations Labor’s candidate for Wentworth on Twitter. He cited the need for a federal integrity commission, donations reform and a “sane energy policy”.

Alex Turnbull (@alexbhturnbull)

Best bang for the buck you'll get in political donations in your life. Tight race, tight margin for government, big incremental effect whatever happens. If you want a federal election now this is the means by which to achieve it. https://t.co/YgTQGhQwBa

At a press conference in Sydney, Morrison played down Turnbull’s intervention, suggesting that “I’m sure Alex’s only message today is happy father’s day to Malcolm”.

Asked if it was odd that Turnbull’s son was seeking donations for the Labor candidate, Morrison said it “strikes [him] as a democracy”.

Far from staying silent on Sunday, Turnbull doubled down on his earlier comments, arguing that“the market disagrees” with the proposition that the Liberal Party’s energy policy will reduce wholesale prices. “Paris agreement had zero impact on prices [by the way],” he said.

Turnbull argued that energy market participants had an incentive to correctly predict the trajectory of prices. “It is crystal clear what those with the right incentives think about what scrapping the Neg means – prices will rise.”

On Sunday the former member for Wentworth – Liberal Peter King – signalled his intention to seek preselection.

Appearing on Sky New’s Outsiders, King suggested the ideal candidate for Wentworth would be someone with experience, “not associated with big business”, with resources and “campaign muscle” who has shown “through his public record he has the long-term interests of the community at heart”.

King did not articulate a vision for emissions reduction, instead focusing on the need to lower power prices.

“We’re exporting our coal and our gas to India and China, they’re then using it to produce cheap power and selling back products to us at a higher rate – so we lose out twice,” he said.

King argued that renewable energy is given $2.8bn a year in subsidies – a figure generated by the Minerals Council most of which is accounted for by solar feed-in tariffs provided by state governments.

King suggested that blockchain technology could be used so that “if you want to pay more for green power, fine, but if you’re doing it tough or want to pay less you ought to have that opportunity too”.

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