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Climate Change - Sectoral Emissions Targets

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 6 September 2021

Tags: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Climate Change, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - I'm still reeling from that comment. I'm actually really shocked to hear that you won't be setting sectoral targets, because the Jacobs report in its very first recommendation makes it clear that net zero emissions from 2030 need to be managed through sectoral decarbonisation planning, and there is no other way you can talk about that other than targets.

So, why have you abandoned targets? You talk about it as punitive, but a forward-leading state like Tasmania ought to be looking at incentives and support, and what better way of making sure we achieve it than through targets, because we're falling behind in most of our major sectors.

Mr GUTWEIN - Actually, if you consider agriculture, which includes forestry and fishing, that is currently below net zero based on the 1990 baseline. Our waste sector is also significantly below the 1990 baseline.

There are areas that we need to work on. There are obviously challenges with transport. At the moment we don't have available hydrogen fleets of buses or heavy vehicles. There is still work to be done in those sectors. I think some international targets that have been set by many of the major vehicle manufacturers are going to help guide us through that period, but there is no need to put in place a 2030 target for a transport sector and be punitive on them.

I believe we can have a glide path that gets them to where we need to be, but with a sensible approach, noting that we are in a very good position, being 108 per cent below the 1990 baseline.

Dr WOODRUFF - We have a climate plan that you are going to announce, that has no caps on native forest logging and no sectoral targets. You are doing neither of the things that are required after reading the IPCC Assessment Report, to take the urgent action that we can take at the state level, to reduce our emissions and keep carbon stores in the ground. Don't you find that pretty shocking for people who are listening to this and who are across the science and who understand that is what real action in Tasmania looks like?

Mr GUTWEIN - It troubles me that when we at 108 per cent below 1990 emission levels, when no other jurisdiction in this country will ever get close to us, that you can't see that as being a good thing. Since the changes to land use that occurred in 2010-14 when the forest industry was basically gutted, there has been an enormous price paid with regard to the carbon sink that we have. The fact that you want to see more damage to that sector at a time when our emissions profile is below the 2050 target and we have been there six years out of seven - I cannot understand your logic.

Dr WOODRUFF - What many people don't understand is you talking about the importance of that storehouse of carbon at the very same time as your own policies allow it to be chopped down. People don't understand how you can continue native forest logging - which is cutting down and removing and moving into the atmosphere the very carbon that is stored in that native forest estate.

Mr GUTWEIN - I understand that the reason we have the carbon sink is that we have changed the land use requirements around those native forests, and so they now appear as a credit as opposed to where they would have been a deficit.

Dr WOODRUFF - Tricky accounting.

Mr GUTWEIN - It is not tricky accounting. Many Tasmanians paid a significant price at the time of the impact that occurred on the forest industry, back in 2010-14. As a result of that price being paid and the change in land use, we now have significant carbon stores.

Moving forward, we can have a native forest industry and a timber industry in Tasmania, at the same time that we have significant carbon sinks as a result of those land use changes. What you want to do, is rather than having an outcome of 108 per cent below the 1990 base line levels, taking it to 200 per cent or more, which would simply impact on the lives and livelihoods of Tasmanians.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, it is concerning that you are being somewhat dishonest about the way that you are representing Tasmania's emissions profile when you said that sectoral emissions have basically been static overall since 1990. I think you did admit that transport has gone up. The fact is that the energy and transport sectors represent 47 per cent of all gross emissions in Tasmania and that sector has gone up 17 per cent since 1990. That is a huge increase given that it is half of our emissions. Also industries have gone up 19 per cent since 1990.

So, we have increasing emissions from two enormous sectors and you, as the minister, are handing over the portfolio responsibility to a minister who has demonstrated he has no capacity for action on delivering houses. He has delayed and delayed in his portfolio. It is a very distressing scenario for people who have looked at the IPCC report and they have called for urgent action. Why are you refusing to take action on the sectoral targets for those big emitting industries that have been going up? At least single them out and give them some incentive for change and some initiatives to do that.

Mr GUTWEIN - In terms of the 1990 emissions profile, if you look at what our emissions were, which was 19.64 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents back in 1990. I think I am pronouncing that correctly. In terms of transport emissions right now today, or in 2019 which is the latest number I have here, for transport there was 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents compared to the total emissions that we had back in 1990 of 19.64 million tonnes of CO2. So it is a small component of the overall emissions profile that we had.

We are fortunate that in energy generation, that has reduced significantly over time. In agriculture, that has reduced. In terms of waste, that has reduced. In the transport sector, noting where the industry itself is looking to head in ice and internal combustion engines between 2030 and beyond, we can have a reasonable and sensible glide path in how we change the fleet over.

We have already made commitments in transport. We are the largest fleet owner in the state, the state government. By 2030 we will have changed our fleet to electric vehicles across the light vehicle fleet. As we find technology advances in heavier vehicles, we will begin that process as well. I am certain that the industry, noting where technology is going to take them, will also seek to make that shift.

I sense from you that you're looking for punitive action whereas I think because of the position we're in we can have a sensible glide path that takes the industry with us, that doesn't increase costs to consumers and enables that transition and strengthens our overall emissions profile.

Dr WOODRUFF - You're an intelligent man and I know that you understand the science, that we're at 1.1 degrees Celsius of global warming already, with 1.5 degrees Celsius the absolute upper maximum. We are already seeing distressing changes around the planet at 1.1 degrees. We're on a track to be more than 3 degrees Celsius on current global emissions. The IPCC has been very clear, the Paris target was to meet 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have to be reducing on 1990 yet we have a state which is increasing across the major emissions levels since 1990 and you're still using terms like 'a sensible glide path'. It has no deadline to it and no target to it -

CHAIR - We need a question, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - Do you understand that people see this as being weak and not taking the strong action that the IPCC demands?

Mr GUTWEIN - No, I don't. I come back to the language that you use around this issue. We should be cheering the emissions profile Tasmania has. Our kids should be so very proud of the position that we're in. We have the opportunity to transition sensibly without punitive action those industries who improve our position even more so. Around the world there are countries that wish they could be in the same position that we are. We can demonstrate the success that we've had to date, which has come at a cost, but we can transition to an even better profile than we have at the moment without causing significant injury to industry.