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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Bowen delivers Australia's national Statement to COP28 stressing renewables path, but it is what was not said on fossil fuels that is crucial

Chris Bowen at COP28
Australia's Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has delivered Australia's National Statement to the UN Climate Conference COP28. There is much to applaud in this statement, and Australia has changed its ambition and domestic and international climate policy positions. 

But it is in what was not said that is equally important.

  • Australia is the 3rd largest fossil fuel exporter globally
  • Since May 2022 Australia has approved 10 new or extended coal and gas projects.
  • Exploration for new oil and gas gields has been approved and is being undertaken, including seismic blasting in offshore marine environments of Western Australia and Victoria
  • Australia subsidises Fossil Fuel extraction through the tax system by around $11 billion per year with no plans to phase out these subsidies. There is also a $1.5 billion subsidy for the Darwin Middle Arm petrochemical hub that will enable new LNG processing.
  • It was pleasing to see Australia joining the Green Climate Fund and a modest contribution of $50 million and the $100 million to the recently established Pacific Climate Resilience Fund is welcome. But Australia has failed to announce any contribution to the new Loss and Damage Fund established, even though Australia was represented on the Transitional Committee.
  • Bowen didn't mention the cap on pollution by Australia's top 215 emitters - the Safeguard Mechanism - relies on these companies ability to buy carbon offset credits in Australian Carbon Credit Units. Many of these carbon offsets have questionable integrity. 
  • He didn't mention Australia's Federal Parliament passing Sea dumping legislation which allows carbon capture and storage under the seabed, and 9 days later Santos signed a deal with ADNOC, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to investiage taking CO2 for sequestration, when most CCS projects have been a failure. 
  • The government has refused to release a Climate Security assessment by the Office of National Intelligence, even in a redacted form.
  • Government has promised Fuel Efficiency standards, but has yet to deliver, to help decarbonise transport emissions.

Don't misinterpret me, Chris Bowen is heaps better than previous Ministers/Prime Minister who delivered Australia's national climate statement to COP. 

Bowen acknowledged the importance of indigenous knowledge to inform solutions, and acknowledged escalating climate impacts, including drawing attention to current events with 42C temperature heatwave in Sydney while he was addressing the COP plenary. 

More importantly, he acknowledged that while progress has been substantial in the last 18 months of the Labor Government, he is still not satisfied and conceeds there is still much more to do. "I’ll be frank – this is more progress for Australia in 12 months than in 10 years. While I am pleased with this I am still not satisfied. Because there is still so much more to do." he said.

The introduction of Annual climate statements is positive and increases transparency. The second annual statement was delivered in November just before COP.  It was criticised more for what it did not say. A bit like this National Statement, really.

Australia really does need to become an Energy Superpower and has set a path for renewables expansion, and in boosting critical minerals development strategy.

Angus Taylor in 2019 refused to acknowledge the Black Summer bushfires in his speech in 2019. There were so many problems with Prime Minister Scott Morrison's speech in 2021 we did a paragraph by paragraph rebuttal of the national statement.

The present opposition Coalition parties would wind back renewables and have advocated for establishing a civil nuclear power industry in Australia. This would take more than a decade to establish if fast-tracked, involve significant cost, escalate electricity prices for consumers adding to costs of living, and be a risky insurance proposition if you happen to live near one of these nuclear power stations. Prime Minister Albanese and Climate Minister Bowen have rightly rejected nuclear as a path for Australia to decarbonise based on the economics.

At the international policy level Australia is supporting Fossil fuel Phaseout/Phasedown in the negotiations. They are being a little fuzzy about language to give them some diplomatic wiggle room. But this introduces the contradiction between what they are saying diplomatically, and what they are doing in practice with approving fossil fuel exploration and expansion, despite the strong science arguments arguing for phase out of all Fossil Fuels needed to be on track to meet the Paris 1.5C temperature commitment.

Australia is heading in the right direction on the energy transition and domestic decarbonisation, although some say still not fast enough, using loopholes, to be in tune with Paris climate targets. 

Speech Transcript 

National Statement – COP28

9 December 2023

I begin with an acknowledgement that at the heart of action on climate change must be profound respect for those people who have cared for our respective lands for millennia – 

Indigenous people across the world.

I reaffirm our Government's commitment to the inclusion of our First Nations people in our climate change response and clean energy future.

Recognising that respect for Indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices is critical.

Friends –

Last year, I told you that Australia was back.

That we had increased our NDC to a 43% reduction by 2030, and made it a law of the land.

Underpinned by a transformation of our electricity system to reach 82% renewables this decade.

This year, we’ve been busy bringing those targets into reach.

Last month I delivered Australia’s second Annual Climate Change Statement.

It included our national projections, showing that Australia is in striking distance of reaching our point target.

And on track to beat our 10-year carbon budget.

These hard-earned gains have been made by our efforts to massively boost renewable energy and our reforms to industrial emissions.

These put a cap on pollution from our 215 biggest emitters, requiring them to reduce emissions to meet net zero by 2050.

We’ve announced a landmark expansion to the Capacity Investment Scheme, to deliver reliable, affordable, renewable energy right across the country.

This will more than double the amount of renewable energy and clean dispatchable capacity currently in our east coast market.

I’ll be frank – this is more progress for Australia in 12 months than in 10 years.

While I am pleased with this I am still not satisfied.

Because there is still so much more to do.

We have all come so far, yet we find ourselves at the beginning, not the end.

And we need to look at this world with new eyes.

Because the world is not how we saw it in 1992.

We need to find the means that are necessary to support those that need it most.

Which means support from more sources, both public and private.

And we need to see a pathway back to safety through a strong Global Stocktake.

The Global Stocktake will show that we are not on track to keep 1.5 degrees alive.

We took a step forward with new language in the Pacific this year. All Pacific Island Forum members agreed to transition away from coal, oil and gas in our energy systems, in line with IPCC pathways for 1.5 degrees, with a peak in fossil fuel consumption in the near term.

We are being swept along towards dangerous degrees of warming and we must urgently course correct.

So while pledges are important – the world needs to back it up with action now too.

We need all countries to commit to policies and programs that bring their targets into reach.

The evidence of the climate crisis isn't just in data and in journals -

It's in the lived experiences of our citizens right now. 

The area I represent in Western Sydney is suffering through a heatwave as we speak, with temperatures reaching an unseasonal 42 degrees today.

That's pressure on our emergency services, our energy system and our most vulnerable. 

And it's becoming more severe, and more frequent. 

Including for the communities that were built around heavy and high-emitting industries – who built our cities and societies.

Which is why we have established a Net Zero Economy Agency, to focus like a laser on new, clean energy job opportunities for our regions.

To empower them to continue to power the world for generations to come.

Climate change is the biggest threat to the prosperity and security of the people across our Blue Pacific Continent.

Which is why the Prime Ministers of Australia and Tuvalu signed the Falepili Union last month.

In recognition of the deep and longstanding connection between our two countries.

And because we come from the same Pacific family, who share an ocean and a future.

Which is why we are proud to be bidding to host a COP in partnership with the Pacific.

And why I announced yesterday that Australia will contribute $100 million towards the Pacific Resilience Facility.

To help our region respond to loss and damage with dignity and courage. 

In the way of their choosing and the way that works best.

It’s also why, as important as every country’s domestic decarbonisation is, those of us with massive renewable potential must share it – hence Australia’s determination to become a global renewable energy superpower.

Now is not the time to drift further apart.

We must look at our future and our fates and redouble our efforts to bring down our emissions and get our world back on track.

Thank you.


DCCEEW National Statement – COP28, 9 December 2023,

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