Interview with Natalie Barr, Prime 7, Sunrise

NATALIE BARR: Well, after two weeks of fierce negotiations almost 200 countries have unanimously agreed on a new climate deal. The Glasgow Climate Pact aims to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to prevent the effects of catastrophic climate change. But the national pledges made so far still have the world on track to warm by 2.4 degrees. The agreement also requires underperforming countries, like Australia, to update their 2030 targets next year. For their take I’m joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader, Barnaby Joyce, and Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon. Morning to you both.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Morning.

BARNABY JOYCE: Good morning, Nat.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, this summit was described as the last chance to keep 1.5 degrees alive. Was it a bit of a talkfest in the end? Was it a failure?

BARNABY JOYCE: I think that some of the framing of it with multiple billionaires and movie stars, there seemed to be a lot of theatrics on it which does at times breed a sense of cynicism. I think it’s achieved an outcome. In Australia, we have to understand that our economy is vastly different to Chairman Alok Sharma’s economy and I saw his depressed look as he put down the gavel, but maybe he could have led the way and told us he was going to shut down the North Sea oil production, one of England’s biggest exports or UK’s biggest exports. Maybe the Scottish have a different view on it. We have to be very mindful that our exports of our fossil fuels supports your pension, supports your health system, supports your police system. It is one of our nation’s biggest export, second biggest export. Other people are willing to make discussions about our exports but very unwilling – a bit like North Sea oil for England – to talk about theirs. Now we are doing our part. We’ve always done our part. We’ve met every target that’s been set for us. Australia has been an honourable citizen in this process. Other countries with less to lose than Australia can be more righteous, but we have to actually balance the books – pay for everything from the ABC to pensions. We do that by earning export dollars, otherwise your currency would be worth nothing because there’d be less that people would want buy from us. That by reason would mean that the price of your Toyotas, the price of your computers, the price of your watches and your iPhones and everything else in your life which you import, would go up because we had less things in the terms of trade to export.

NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Joel, we have the head of COP26 in tears apologising mainly because of this last big deal that India and China pushed for phasing down coal, not phasing it out. How much of a failure was this?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Nat, we should never let the perfect get in the way of the possible. And compromise and flexibility is important when you’re trying to get almost 200 countries to agree on something, particularly when the debate is being led by wealthy developed nations asking poorer developing nations to give up the very things we’ve built our wealth upon for many decades. I think we should spend more time celebrating the progress in Glasgow than lamenting what could have been or the failure to reach the perfect. I think it’s a good outcome. It’s a good outcome for those developing countries, the developing countries who will desperately need our relatively efficient fossil fuels over many decades to bring them out of poverty and to build their own cleaner economies.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, we have to go back in a year and we have to update our targets for 2030. Are the Nationals going to agree to that?

BARNABY JOYCE: We’ll tell the Australian people quite clearly that if you stop using Australian coal you’re just going to use more Indian coal or other coal from other parts of the world – from Indonesia or from Mongolia – and you’re going to get more emissions not less. We’ll also say to people if you want to be honest about this and lose one of your biggest export items, then you have to acknowledge that your standard of living will have to go down and your money that we’ve got for your NDIS, for your pensions, for your Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, for your schools, for your hospitals, for your roads, of course that’s affected as well as the fact that your currency, because less people will demand it, will be worth less, which covers means you’ll need more Australian dollars to pay for your imports, your phones, your motor vehicles, your fuel. This, of course, will go through every section of your life. It’s not just, “Oh, we’ll shut down the coal industry and everything will be fine and go along as before.” It’s your nation’s second biggest export. And so we have to be balanced in this because Australia’s position is vastly different from the United Kingdom with pharmaceuticals and the London Stock Exchange and oil, North Sea oil – which they don’t want to shut down, they want to keep that one going – but they want to shut down other people’s industries. We are doing our part. We’ve always done our part. But we have to be tempered and understand quite clearly where our money that we export comes from. If you start shutting that down, you of course are going to start shutting down your standard of living in Australia. You will definitely have an effect on it – from inflation on everything you import. Look around your room. Look at how many things are made in Australia. It all comes in on a boat, so we have to be putting something on a boat and sending it in the other direction to pay for that.

NATALIE BARR: Yep, okay. Look, thanks very much for your time this morning. We’ll see you next week. We’ve run out of time. Here’s Kochie.