Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: COP27, Pacific development assistance, climate change loss and damage discussion.

Kieran Gilbert: Now, Australia is backing a move to green shipping, but is under pressure to join a climate compensation deal under consideration at the COP27 summit. Let's go live to the conference in Egypt. I'm joined by the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy. Minister, thanks for your time. Will Australia look at this loss and damage fund? Will we sign up to it for developing nations, basically those nations that are arguing that they're already being hit by the impact of climate change?

Minister for International Development and the Pacific: Well, good afternoon, Kieran and I'll make a couple of points. Australia supported the COP process considering this as an agenda item, and this is really important. Unlike the previous government, we will not silence the Pacific on matters of climate change. And this is an important topic for the Pacific family. And if you just look at the strategic competition in the Pacific, it's very important that Australia is listening to the priorities of the Pacific and supporting discussion on the issues that matter to them. And that's the point Prime Minister Albanese made in Question Time today. Importantly, this is a process we're supporting rather than outcome at this stage. This process will take two years. And at the outset it was made explicitly clear that this process rules out compensation and emissions of liability. So this is a very important topic. But I've been watching the debate back home and for the opposition to be running around on this just demonstrates they're not fit to govern. They don't take climate change seriously and they don't take our relationship with the Pacific seriously at all. You just have to look at what happened when they were in government, including the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, as a demonstration of their obsession with putting domestic politics above our national security.

Kieran Gilbert: The question from Peter Dutton I think you're alluding to there at the start of Question Time, where he asked the Prime Minister, did he rule out compensating other countries as part of a deal at COP27? From what you said there, it sounds like the government isn't looking at a compensation or liability arrangement as part of that loss and damage discussion. Is that a fair way to characterise your view? Can you rule out that sort of compensation?

Minister for International Development and the Pacific: The most accurate thing is that the entire conference is not looking at compensation or liability, it's not about Australia or other parties. The entire conference has agreed to discuss loss and damage, but on the basis that it doesn't include compensation or omissions of liability. And so I just go back to my previous point. We are facing an existential crisis in our region, that is climate change. Previous Australian governments have blocked action on climate change and that's destroyed our relationship in the Pacific, leading to a vacuum that other countries have filled. The new government is committed to taking action on climate change. One reason is that it will drive a massive jobs dividend in Australia because of our ability to be part of the clean energy revolution. But secondly, because it's of vital importance to the Pacific and Australians, you have to look at the floods occurring right now to understand the impact of climate change in Australia and the Pacific region. And that's why I'm here, as Minister for the Pacific, working to support action on climate change, working to support the Pacific family and working to drive a strong jobs dividend for Australian workers.

Kieran Gilbert: With this process that we've seen as a big focus, obviously, on the targets, reducing emissions, adaptation has been a big focus. Now, with a developing nation being the host, do you see it as an appropriate time to focus on this issue of loss and damage for poorer countries?

Minister for International Development and the Pacific: Well, the three foci of the conference is, one, implementing the Glasgow treaty, so trying to remain focused on the mitigation, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid climate change. And that's why it's really important that we keep 1.5 alive, that we keep the notion of restricting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Secondly, there's a focus on ramping up support for climate adaptation. And third, there's a focus on delivering on climate finance, which may include loss and damage. And the really important message on delivering to our Pacific friends and the broader conference is Australia is supporting climate finance, we're supporting strong action on climate adaptation and we're very strong on climate mitigation. We are the only country that has increased our emissions reduction targets after the Glasgow conference last year, Australia is the only one. Through the Albanese Labor Government and our new targets on adaptation, we've announced some really strong policies, particularly in the Pacific, around a climate finance facility to fund adaptation in the Pacific that includes sea walls, desalination plants to deal with rising salt water inundation.

Kieran Gilbert: Okay well given that good story or that positive story that you say that there is, the government has to tell, when you've got Biden going, Rishi Sunak, the new British Prime Minister, our Prime Minister is not. First Labor government in about a decade. Was that a hard decision for him to say he's not going to be there?

Minister for International Development and the Pacific: Well, the Prime Minister can't be everywhere at once, which is a statement of the obvious, but it's true. And it is important that the Prime Minister be accountable to the people through attending Parliament this week, he will be overseas for APEC the G20 and the East Asia Summit over the next few weeks. So he's got a very busy agenda of international travel. And as I importantly said, this is a conference about implementation or policy setting. Glasgow was about setting new emissions reduction targets and new policies for the whole world. This conference is about implementation and that's why it's important for me to be here as Minister for the Pacific with a focus on the Pacific in the first week and then Minister Bowen taking over, leading the delegation next week, when a detailed negotiation around the nitty gritty of the Glasgow Pact occur.

Kieran Gilbert: Minister for the Pacific and International Development, appreciate your time. Pat Conroy joining me from Sharm El Sheikh. Thanks.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific: Have a great afternoon. Kieran.

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