JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, thanks for joining us on the BBC.
JOURNALIST: Weve heard many differing assessments of what will come out of the Copenhagen climate change conference, some optimistic, most pessimistic. Were in the final countdown to Copenhagen. I wonder whats your judgement on what will come from it?
PM: Well, were working towards a Copenhagen agreement. This is a very tough process. You know the number of negotiating countries as well as I do, and forging an agreement across so many different countries is a very difficult process. But having discussed this at length with Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark, President of the United States and some discussions with the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, was have a capacity to land an agreement, a Copenhagen agreement, one which deals with the core policy challenges for the future – namely, what temperature increase are we prepared to sustain for the future, 2 degrees Centigrade; what targets to we need from the major developed economies around the world; what commitments to action to we need from the major emerging economies like China and India; as well as how do we fund this agreement, what climate change finance arrangement do we put in place for the developing economies.
If we can land an outcome in those principle areas of policy disagreement, then we will have made a very large step forward.
Then, of course, translating that into legalese will take a little longer.
JOURNALIST: So were talking here about a non-binding, political agreement. Theres no possibility of a legally binding treaty?
PM: I believe what were talking about with the Copenhagen agreement is what I would describe as an operational framework agreement; if you listen carefully to what President Obama said the other day, one which would take immediate effect. However, there is a separation between what is said in a policy agreement on the one hand and, let me say, the difficulty and the complexity of translating that into a 4,000-page binding legal document, but you cannot get to the second stage unless youve done the first.
Heads of policy agreement are essential in order to allow the legal drafters to go to work.
JOURNALIST: Can you give us a sense of a timeframe on how long it will take to codify this political agreement into a legally binding treaty?
PM: I can only speak for myself, as Prime Minister of Australia. I would expect that if we could get the heads of a policy agreement in the key areas I was referring to just before then in the course of 2010 I believe we can deliver a legally binding treaty document. One inevitable flows from the other.
Unless youve got a core agreement on the policy matters which are still on the table, you cant set the legal drafters to work. In part, thats whats presented itself as a difficulty so far. The legal drafters cant actually invent agreement where there is none. Therefore, it comes back to heads of government to craft the content of a policy agreement.
JOURNALIST: I wonder where your confidence comes from on this front. Youve had two years since the Bali climate change conference. Youve had two years of negotiation. Youve had two years to figure out the details of this agreement. Why havent you been able to reach agreement now, and whats a couple of months going to make different? It seems to be there are very, still, big differences between, particularly, the developed nations and the developing nations.
PM: One word – pressure. You know what a negotiations like.
JOURNALIST: But youve had that pressure.
PM: Well, come on. You know what a negotiations like. Youve got two years, people, sort of, go from here to there, well have a conference over here, well send the negotiators there, but as the clock slowly ticks to midnight, then people become very engaged, and my overall argument on climate change is that times running out; not just for the planet – also for the future of our economies, we dont get this right for our kids, our grandkids, and there is enormous moral and political obligation on this generation of world leaders.
So, the pressure has now mounted. I said before we are capable of delivering agreement, doesnt mean that its inevitable well get there. Were capable of it, and I believe that there is a strong and high degree of political resolve on many of the leaders around the world to land a Copenhagen agreement.
It will be very tough.
JOURNALIST: Well, lets talk about some of the stumbling blocks. Youve been asked by Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark to be a friend of the chair. Youre gonna play a key negotiating role in Copenhagen. One of the things that Australia has is to propose a compromise. Youre saying that developing nations shouldnt necessarily be bound by binding targets. Youve suggest what are called non-binding national schedules. Just flesh out for us, if would, briefly, what you mean by that.
PM: Well, this is still subject to negotiations between us, but, for example, there is a way in which developing economies, in particular, could advance the verifiable, measurable actions which they intend to take as part of an overall policy agreement between countries, and that could be expressed in their own national terms, so long as we, the rest of the world, can also measure what that means, ultimately, in terms of its impact of bringing down greenhouse gas emissions.
Similarly, youre going to have to have clearly stated targets, medium-term and long-term, for developed countries for such an agreement to be achieved, as well as, of course, I said before, finance.
JOURNALIST: The aim, I think, of your proposal is to make the framework less intimidating for new players, for developing countries coming into this kind of schedule and protocol, but the problem is, and if you speak to climate change policy experts around the world, the problem with your proposal, they say, is it cant be policed.
PM: Well, when I said before verifiable and measurable, I mean it.
JOURNALIST: What mechanism are you going to set up to verify?
PM: Oh, yet to be determined through the conclusion of negotiations, but measurement and verification is essential. For example, if were going to provide funding as developed economies to the machinery to make this happen, climate change finance, mitigation and adaptation, were going to have to have a means by which to establish that this is where its actually going, and if its having a measurable effect.
There are multiple proposals on the table about how that could be done, but the core principle is this – measurement and verification.
And that also applies, of course, to those of us in developed economies. Its all very good to go an international conference, put your hand on your heart and say were going to do x – we have to be held to account as well. Remember, the historical problem here has arisen because of what developed economies have done. The future responsibility is a shared one.
JOURNALIST: Youve developed a very close relationship with the Us President, Barack Obama since he came to power. In fact, one senior administration official has said publically that theres no world leader that Barack Obama feels more comfortable with than you. To use an Australianism, youre his best mate on the international stage. Does it sadden you, therefore, that as yet Barack Obama has not given firm commitment that hell even attend Copenhagen?
PM: When I sat down with a large number of world leaders at a round table which myself and President Calderon of Mexico convened in Singapore the weekend before last, we had President Obama sitting here. We had President Hu Jintao just over there. Small table. We forgot to serve the Weeties for breakfast, so as a result it was all work and nothing to eat, but it was a very intense hour and a half. Let me say it was very encouraging for all of us to hear how definitive the President of the United States was prepared to be about where he could take America. Obviously, he is constrained by what is occurring in the United States Congress. There are parliamentary and congressional realities facing a number of governments around the world, including my own, but his clear cut statement that we can deliver an operational agreement, a framework agreement, at Copenhagen if there is sufficient political will to get there across all of us, I think is highly encouraging.
JOURNALIST: He hasnt even set out an emissions target for the United States yet.
PM: But I think what youll see from the United States is a clear indication they are prepared to move towards targets, and also prepared to commit to an international agreement concerning funding. These are very important steps forward. Remember, this process, which has been chaired by the Prime Minister of Denmark, Prime Minister Rasmussen, is a leaders-driven process. It involves us all, including those of us who are friends of the chair. Ill be linking up again by videoconference at some terrible time of the night here in Australia with counterparts from around the world during the course of this week. This will be our fourth of fifth videoconference to try and deal with each of these practical challenges on the way through.
There are a thousand reasons that people can come up with as to why we could fail. Our job as political leaders is to find the way through, to succeed.
JOURNALIST: Since becoming Prime Minister two years ago, youve developed something of an international reputation for your green diplomacy. One of your first acts as Prime Minister was to begin the process by which Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol. You went straight to the Bali climate change convention and got a standing ovation from delegates there, but at the same time youre the leader of a country with the highest per capita emissions in the world, and the country which exports more coal than anywhere else in the world. You have to admit youre in an anomalous position.
PM: Well, Ive been absolutely upfront about both those points. Wherever Ive gone in the world, I have said, quite frankly, to my colleagues from the rest of the developed world and the developing countries that I stand before you as the Prime Minister of a country which is the largest per capita emitter in the world, and its far better we simply accept facts for what they and then seek to change them, rather than engage in some bogus diplomacy and pretend that were somehow holier than thou.
Bear in mind Ive had to come from a zero start. The previous Australian Government was still disputing the science on these questions, let alone prepared to act either globally or nationally through an emissions trading scheme.
JOURNALIST: Well, lets talk about your emissions trading scheme. Youre hoping to push it through parliament this week. You want it done and dusted before Copenhagen. You had to compromise because the opposition Party isnt as green-friendly as perhaps your government is, but at the same time you initially set a very low target on cutting emissions – an unconditional pledge to just 5 percent by 2020, the possibility of 15 percent later, but at the moment its just 5 percent, and a lot of international observers have said thats paltry.
PM: Well, first of all, understand where we come from, which was the condition that we just described before, which is a very, very, shall I say, poor start, given where wed been historically. Now, I dont intend to hide from that fact. Thats just the reality.
The challenge for us, as in the United States and elsewhere, is how do you transition our economy into a lower-carbon emitting future. Thats what we intend to do.
What we have done, and its consistent with what a number of countries have done around the world, is put out a spread of targets – 5 unconditionally, 15 conditionally, 25 with other conditions further attached. The virtue of our position around 15 and 25 percent cuts is that it is conditional on actions in the rest of the world, both developed and developing, and therefore, if weve got that approach and we are all actually singing from the same hymn sheet in Copenhagen and beyond there is an opportunity, therefore, to deliver a more robust outcome. That conditional approach is not unique to Australia, as I think you know.
JOURNALIST: Lord Stern, whos the author of the Stern Report, obviously, has said that one of the obstacles in the way of an international agreement is rich countries not setting stringent enough emissions targets. Hes talking about Australia, isnt he?
PM: Well, I know Nick Stern very well. Hes a very good man and hes contributed enormously to the global debate on bringing down greenhouse gas emissions. The key thing is to make sure that everyone steps up to the plate. What we are seeking to do through our emissions trading scheme, what we call in this country a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, is to set up a transition from a high-carbon density economy to a lower one over time, with appropriate adjustments for industry, for families, on the way through.
But I go back to my point – On the targets question, we are being entirely robust. 5% conditional. 5% unconditional. 15% unconditional, 25%- sorry, 5% unconditional.
PM: 15% conditional, depending on whats happening elsewhere in the world, and 25% with a further set of conditionalities attached. That is entirely calibrated to what then happens in global agreements around the world. And that I think is a reasonable and responsible approach. It is one also based in the science.
JOURNALIST: Well you like to quote the scientists, and let me quote them. The UN Panel of climate change experts, theyre calling for 25-40% cuts by 2020. The European Union Ministers last week were going for 30%. Again, why as a developing country should I listen to Kevin Rudd on this issue, when youre only proposing a 5% cut yourself, and youre actually promoting the expert of coal.
PM: Well let me go on to the second part of your question, which I havent dealt with yet, which is the question of coal. Youre right to point to the fact that, around the world, coal-fired electricity generation, based on the trajectories that you see in China and India, will probably by the time we get to 2030 represent something in excess of 50% of total electricity generation around the world. It is a reality we have to deal with. So how do we as a globe, as a global community, respond to this challenge? One, of course, is to deal with the big challenge of energy efficiency. Thats huge. Some of the estimates are that we can actually bring about a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by effective and comprehensive efficiency measures. And our calculation at home, here in Australia, is that we can do a lot on that score as well. Whats the second thing? Renewable energies. Thats why we in this country are currently investing in what we believe will become the single largest solar generating plant anywhere in the world, up to 1000 megawatts. Thirdly, what do you do about coal?
Thats why we have initiated the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute as a global initiative from Australia. We fund it to the tune of $100 million a year, with one objective- to bring the four available clean coal technologies, carbon sequestration and storage technologies to commercial application at scale. We need to establish how much it costs with these technologies to bring about the effective sequestration of carbon coming out of coal-fired electricity generation. So you ask what were doing about it? Thats our strategy.
JOURNALIST: The British Government has said that there will be no new coal-fired stations in 2020 unless 100% of the carbon can be captured and stored. If youre really serious about it, why dont you make a similar pledge?
PM: Well what weve adhered to, or shall I say what were responding to, is a call by the G8 at the Hokkaido conference in 2008, which said that by 2020, we should have up established and proven 20 at scale coal-fired electricity stations around the world deploying CCS technologies. The reason why the Australian institute came into being, our Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, is because when we looked around the world after Hokkaido, and that meeting of the G8, we did not find any action underway to bring that to realisation. Thats what were doing through the institute, working on the regulations and the legislation, working on the project identification, disseminating the technology to the greatest extent possible as a public good, and assisting with finances as well. We intend to bring forward a number of these projects ourselves. So, thats where were up to, we intend to work this and work it really hard. And our objective is that 2020 objective.
JOURNALIST: But the Kevin Rudd that says that is also the Kevin Rudd that is putting in millions of federal funding to expand coal export facilities in Queensland and New South Wales. Theres a contradiction there, isnt there?
PM: Well coal- can I just say when it comes to all forms of, shall I say carbon-based electricity generation or carbon-based generation of energy worldwide, whether its through oil, whether its through LNG, whether its through coal. We have a challenge on our hands. The key thing is though, can we use the available technologies to prove at scale that these things can work, can work to deliver a sequestration outcome for coal which is commercially applicable across the world. Thats what we are in the business of doing. Of course, the challenge particularly is relevant to China and India. But the Chinese and Indian energy plans for the future, whoever they might be importing coal from in the future, these are huge domestic coal using countries as far as the two major emerging economies of the 21st century.
As Prime Minister of Australia, I believe Ive got a moral obligation to establish to the greatest extent that I can, the workability of these technologies, and at scale. But theres one thing we might be able to look back and say we did is to say that two of these four technologies actually work at scale, and the Chinese and the Indians are now using them. And if were not able to get there, its far better we have that public information available to people, rather than CCS technologies being regarded as pie in the sky.
JOURNALIST: But as the Prime Minister of Australia, another one of your responsibilities is to preserve the great prosperity that this country has enjoyed. And much of that prosperity is based on your success as a resources exporter, and particularly a coal exporter. You export 30% of the worlds coal. That doesnt sit happily with the Kevin Rudd with these polished green credentials, does it?
PM: Well you know something, you could take a sledgehammer to anyones international diplomatic credentials on any question at any time. You know that, and youre experienced as a reporter for the beeb. Youve interviewed lots of folk around the world before. The key thing is, can you make a difference? What were seeking to do is to make a difference. None of the measures Ive outlined before either in terms of energy efficiency nationally and worldwide, secondly, renewable energies, solar, the activities that were investing in there, and thirdly through carbon sequestration storage technologies for coal-fired electricity generation, all these things are also made possible by establishing a carbon price.
And the carbon price that you establish, driven by the science, driven by where you need to land ultimately, in terms of an acceptable temperature increase worldwide, the two degrees Celsius target that we agreed at the Major Economies Forum meeting in LAquila earlier this year- unless we get to an agreement nationally and in as many other countries around the world as possible about a real carbon price, then we wont have properly shaped and formed this range of energy possibilities for the future as well. So I intend to be as effective in the leadership of that debate as possible. None of us come to this debate on climate change with clean hands. None of us. So lets sort of put to one side this idea that any particular national idea comes as some sort of moral puritan to the equation.
JOURNALIST: But they might say your hands are dirtier than most.
PM: Well that could be an uncomfortable comment from the beeb, but Ill leave that to you guys.
JOURNALIST: A couple of final questions Prime Minister. Theres a lot of climate change scepticism in this country, which strikes a lot of international observers as slightly odd, given Australias the worlds driest continent. Youre already seeing the effects of climate change in the view of many scientists here. I wonder whether you take any responsibility for that, because you havent done that much to elucidate this issue. You gave a big speech a couple of weeks ago, and that was interpreted by many in Australia as an attempt to shift the focus away from the boat people issue which has been causing you political problems. Before that, you hadnt devoted a speech to climate change for six months.
PM: I think if you looked at what Ive been saying on climate change for years and years and years, Ive said this whole debate begins and ends with the science. That is, the measurement of what is occurring in terms of human-based or human caused temperature changes in the world, and therefore what can be done about it in terms of keeping those temperature rises within sustainable levels. I have said this uphill, down dale, in as many Parliamentary debates as I can remember. I wouldnt wish to bore you by asking you to read each of those debates over the last two to three years, Im sure youll find plenty of references. As for the recent speech on the science, it is simply to drive home a single point at home and abroad.
The climate change sceptics, the climate change deniers, and the industry they have running around the world at the moment, in trying to undermine the political authority of leaders seeking to act on climate change, has to be exposed. When I look at the debate in the United States and you see all these guys emerging from the woodwork, it reminds me so much of the debates about smoking and lung cancer thirty or forty years ago. Youve got all these people coming out and saying theres no link between smoking and lung cancer, despite the fact that all the scientific datas been on the table for so long. I believe we actually need to expose this for what it is. Absolute scientific fraudulence when it comes to the attack on the authenticity of the climate change science as it exists, and the fact that we have 4000 plus scientists on the international panel of climate change scientists providing us with definitive reports on the need to act, and what is occurring in the absence of action leaves us in a position as global leaders whereby I believe we cannot afford to fail.
JOURNALIST: One of the main criticisms of your Prime Ministership is often you dont leverage your personal popularity enough. Youve got an extraordinarily high approval rating historically in Australia, and you havent been willing to leverage that popularity on unpopular issues. And this is one of them, your critics would say. You havent been prepared to deliver unpalatable truths to the Australian people about what tackling climate change will mean. And its this, that it could damage their prosperity.
PM: Weve been absolutely frank about the fact that when you introduce, for example, a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, our version of an Emissions Trading Scheme, that it will have effect therefore on the carbon price, and that will affect how businesses operate, and it will affect also the income for families. Weve been equally upfront about how we propose to provide compensation for the lowest income families in Australia. I think weve been entirely frank about that.
And if you think coming from the worlds carbon-intensive economy and from a very flat start on this question, in two years to be in the position we are today where were trying with all the powers available to us to get through the Australian Parliament an Emissions Trading Scheme despite formidable political and other opposition, and internationally work as hard as we can through the global process presided over by the UN Secretary-General on the one hand and Prime Minister Rasmussen on the other to get a global deal, this has required a fair bit of effort on our part as well. So many leaders around the world are doing exactly the same. So well just continue plugging away, doing what we can, were from Australia, were here to help.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Rudd, thank you very much.
PM: Good to be with you.