Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast from COP27 at Sharm el Sheikh Egypt

  • Transcript, E&OE
UN Climate Summit, Glasgow COP emission targets, Climate funding for developing countries.

Michael Rowland: We're joined now from Sharm el‑Sheikh by Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy.

Minister, Good Morning to you. Do you agree with the UN Secretary‑General that the world is on, in his words, a highway to hell when it comes to not doing enough to tackle climate change?

Minister Conroy: Well Good Morning, Michael, and look - the warning from the UN Secretary‑General was very sobering and it's certainly clear that the world does need to take action to avoid catastrophic climate change. That's why Australia is the first country since the Glasgow COP last year to increase our ambition.

As a result of the Federal election, we have increased our medium-term target very significantly, we've committed to net‑zero emissions by 2050 and 82 per cent renewable energy by 2030 as well. We're doing that (a) because we need momentum to take global action on climate change, and secondly, there's a massive jobs opportunity for Australia through the clean energy revolution.

So the message from the UN Secretary‑General was very important. Australia has heard it through the election of the Albanese Labor Government and we're committed to seizing the job opportunities that are there from taking action on climate change.

Michael Rowland: Yeah we had those blunt words from the UN Secretary‑General, also as we mentioned former US Vice President Al Gore, equally bleak. Do you get a sense of, I guess, despondency there, I know it's early days at the conference, about where the world is in trying to rein in changes to climate?

Minister Conroy: I actually don't get that sense to be honest. I think there's a sense of urgency. I think people realise that the Glasgow treaty last year was historic. If all the commitments from the Glasgow treaty are fulfilled, we can keep global warming to 1.8 degrees. Obviously we need to keep it to 1.5 degrees, so it's a start.

So this conference is all about getting those commitments operationalised, getting them set in the rule book and getting every country to explain its mechanisms to achieve those climate targets.

Importantly, also investing in climate finance and adaptation so that the climate change that is unavoidable we're dealing with through sea walls, desalination plants, supporting people in the Pacific, for example, which is a key focus of me.

So there is a sense of energy. There's a sense of urgency. There's also awareness that the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin's illegal and unprincipled attack on Ukraine is making things more challenging, but there is a sense of I think commitment to really take action on climate change.

Michael Rowland: More than 100 world leaders, heads of state there, as you say, for a very meeting. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron, Joe Biden is going to attend after the mid‑terms. Where's our Prime Minister?

Minister Conroy: Well our Prime Minister's made it very clear that he's got a series of international engagements over the next three weeks, including the G20, the East Asian Summit ‑‑

Michael Rowland: So have these other world leaders. So have some of the world leaders I've just mentioned.

Minister Conroy: Well, for example, I met with Henry Puna today who's the Secretary‑General of the Pacific Islands Forum and he said publicly that he understood why Mr Albanese couldn't make it here. Being accountable to Parliament is very important. He's well‑represented by myself and Chris Bowen in the second week.

This is a conference about implementation. This is a conference about the detailed work and it's really appropriate given we've got a really strong focus on the Pacific this week, that the Pacific Minister is here representing Australia.That's our focus this week - working with the Pacific to bid to host a COP in 2026 and rebuilding our relationship with the Pacific after ten years of neglect by the last Government.

So when I've been talking to world leaders, they've understood why Mr Albanese was required in Parliament this week, and they're more interested, quite frankly, in the concrete actions that Australia's taking. As I said, we are the first Government since the Glasgow treaty to increase our ambition, significantly increase our ambitions in fact, and that's winning a lot of goodwill in this conference.

Michael Rowland:  Analysis by Carbon Brief, it's a UK‑based, a respected climate change newsletter, Minister, says the US, UK, Canada and Australia have fallen billions of dollars short in their fair share of climate funding for developing countries - The Guardian's reporting that this morning. Is Australia not stumping up enough money to help developing countries?

Minister Conroy: Well I'm not quite surewhat they base their analysis on.What I can say to you and your viewersis that Australia's providing records amount of climate finance under thisGovernment.We're continuing the commitment to $2 billion worth ofclimate finance over a five-year period.We announced during the electionperiod a climate finance facility for the Pacific.We've also got aclimate facility with Indonesia, and we've also announced a $1.4 billionincrease in foreign aid over the next four years out of the budget two weeksago, some of which will be allocated to climate finance.

So we're very committedto that and when I talk to our Pacific partners they are very, veryappreciative of our efforts.They recognise that this Government, the newAustralian Government, is taking a lot more action than the last Government,partly to be good members of the Pacific family and also because we understandthe massive job opportunities that will accrue to Australia by taking action onclimate change.

So I do reject thatanalysis.Australia is playing an appropriate role, particularly in ourregion.Our $1.9 billion worth of assistance to the Pacific this year isthe highest it's ever been, and we are the greatest development partner to thePacific, for example.

Michael Rowland: Pat Conroy, reallyappreciate your time this morning, or this evening over there your time, thankyou.

Minister Conroy: Have a great morning.

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