Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Consensus GreenTech Awards, Sydney

Transcript: Consensus GreenTech Awards, Sydney
5 June 2014

Thank you very much Peter, to Julie and the team from Consensus, Ladies and Gentlemen, it's a pleasure to be with you today. A little later then I intended but I am pleased to hear the event is running to time. It's a pleasure to be with you today for the Consensus GreenTech awards and the Consensus Software awards and I'm delighted to be able to represent the Government and to say a few words and in particular words I hope of encouragement and praise for those innovators in the room who do so much to help and develop our economy and the great country that we are fortunate to live in.

As a Government we want to see a country, we want to see Australia be a nation that is productive and competitive, competitive globally, a nation that is innovative and aspirational, one that it is as we have been for so long at the forefront of development in so many different ways. And it's something that we are committed to ensuring our policy settings try to create the right atmospherics to deliver on those objectives. We are conscious that it is not government that delivers innovation necessarily, it's not government that delivers productivity, it's not government that creates the type of competitive and aspirational sense in the country, it is the people in enterprise, the people in business who do so much to make sure that as a country we can be a leading nation amongst the world.

And we are a leading nation amongst the world and we should never forget that despite our relatively small population in global terms, we are a top 20 nation in so many different ways. A top 20 nation economically in terms of the size of our economy, a top 20 nation in terms of our outcomes - our education, on our health outcomes, our lifestyle, our living standards, the opportunities for Australians are engagement with the world.

There are so many different ways as a nation we punch well above our weight in terms of size of country and make such a huge contribution to the rest of the world. And that has been the case throughout our country's history and especially when it comes to matters of innovation when you consider of course the contribution of Australian scientists of Australian Nobel Laureates and others to the development of so many different technologies and innovations throughout the world.

Whilst technology is usually and innovation is usually associated more with economic outcomes, we recognise, Greg Hunt the Environment Minister and I as his Parliamentary Secretary recognise very much that innovation is equally critical and important to how it is that we manage both our natural and built environment and continue to protect that well in to the future.

In so many different ways new technologies help environmental management outcomes. And we've seen from some of the finalists today summary of different ways in which they contribute and will contribute in to the future better environmental outcomes.

Whether it is the preservation of our heritage assets and new technologies that have been developed over time to ensure we minimise the deterioration and preserve heritage assets whether they're built, matters like we have in the great city like Sydney through to islands of heritage that date back tens of thousands of years. Like the challenge of keeping Aboriginal rock art intact in hostile climates and the ability of technology to help deliver outcomes that preserve such important parts of our natural heritage.

The importance of technology in delivering better biological techniques and outcomes to target invasive species and help us to preserve and protect the endangered species of our country that we so value the opportunities that those technologies have already given and will continue to give in the future to ensure that we reduce and ultimately holt the loss of endangered species.

The opportunity in my particular portfolio space of managing water more wisely, the technology provides. Where we are delivering now on a plan for better management of the Murray-Darling Basin, in the way we are investing in upgrading the technology and the output of farmers and their productivity so that they use water more wisely, that they get better outcomes, better outputs, greater yield for every drop of water going in, as a result of that we are able to return some water back to environmental flows, and better environmental outcomes without losing the productivity of our farms.

In terms of the management of waste, being able to recycle more, reduce of course the ultimate level of input required to make products in the future, and reducing the level of waste going to landfill. All of these are classic examples of way in which technology has and will continue to provide great benefits in terms of the environment.

Today, I just wanted to touch briefly on one area of major government policy, and major policy change over the coming years, that is equally driven by technology and innovation, and that relates to climate change and the challenge of reducing Australia's emissions profile. Where in particular enhanced energy efficiency driven by technology and innovation as well as enhanced energy productivity where of course we get greater use and greater output for a reduced energy input are things that we hope our direct action agenda will be able to facilitate.

In our first budget handed down just recently we've pledged to provide and have committed on that pledge some $2.55 billion dollars from the first of July this year to the establishment of an emissions reduction fund. Technology and innovation will be the heart of that fund and its utilisation to achieve our Government target and the bipartisan Australian target of reducing Australia's emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020. And we fully expect that in achieving and delivering that target, business will seek to find ways that lower their energy costs, and improves their energy productivity.

To contrasts in polices of course from what has been a punitive approach of applying prices and taxes and via the carbon tax. What we are now embracing and will implement as a government is encouraging approach in a facilitating approach where we will go out to market, via an auction method, inviting tenders from business people and innovators in their

fields to be able to partner with government to provide emissions abatement over a period of time that will be contracted to be provided to the government and providing an incentive payment and purchasing that emissions abatement to reach our national targets, but to reach those targets by investing in better policy outcomes here in Australia.

There are a range of things and we are not limiting the potential of the emissions reduction fund for what it could include but certainly it includes activities like the possibility of upgrading commercial buildings, improving energy efficiency in industrial facilities and housing, capturing landfill gas, reducing waste coal mine gas, reforesting and revegetating marginal lands, improving Australia, improving Australia's agricultural soils, upgrading vehicles and improving transport logistics, and managing fires in savannah grasslands amongst others.

These of course are just a range of examples of how it is that we expect this fund to support a multiplicity of activities that will be approved and accredited and at present we are working through the process of getting various methodology's approved more than 30 should be available by the time of the commencement of the fund, and those methodology's will provide the framework where government can have confidence that when somebody bids a project in, if it stacks up against methodology's, we can have the confidence that it should provide the emissions reductions that we are seeking for the Australian economy.

We expect that the first of the reverse auctions as such, where we go out to the market and see the lowest prices for emissions reduction activities will be conducted by the Clean Energy Regulator in the second half of this year. Four auctions will be scheduled over the first year of operation of the fund with the Regulator publishing further schedules for auctions over the subsequent 12 months and beyond.

Importantly the Government will then enter into contracts with successful bidders, which will guarantee the payment and the provision of future emissions reductions. We are undertaking a range of targeted market testing in terms of the contractual terms as to the lengths of contracts and the nature of these contracts to make sure that they work for business and provide the transformation to our emissions profile and energy mix that we hope it can deliver.

Whilst we expect that many of the projects, especially those initially funded may be for large scale of abatements activities, we are conscious of the opportunity that also exists for activities such as revegetation and household and commercial energy efficiency that may be smaller scale in action. And we will be providing opportunities within the operation of the fund for aggregation to occur where small scale projects can be joined up so that they can provide cost effective and competitive bids in to the operation of the Emissions Reduction Fund.

One example of how we can see the fund provide a transformative effect through the use of technology relates to the use of electric motors. Motors that can control everything from pumps to compressors, drives to fans Over half of Australia's electricity passes through an electric motor of some sort.

The International Energy Agency believes that it's possible to cost-effectively improve the energy efficiency of motor systems by roughly 20 to 30 per cent using technology that already exists led alone that which can be developed and will be developed in future years.

That type of step change in energy efficiency could reduce, if it were applied uniformly, could reduce global electricity demand by about 10 per cent. It's the ability to do more with less that we are seeking from these types of technological changes, and from our investment through the Emissions Reduction Fund.

As I said this is just one area of government investment and activity, and energy efficiency is just one part of where we seek the potential for the emissions reduction fund to invest. What we'll see today and have seen already is that of course technology can apply not just across the environment but across all sectors of our economy. And out platform and our policies to try to reduce the tax base and the cost base for businesses to operate in Australia is all about creating an environment in which we are a more attractive country in which to invest, and if we are more attractive in which to invest, we will see more money coming to investment in R and D, in technology and innovation within Australia that will only continue to enhance our place in the world as a global leader.

So ladies and gentlemen I want to thank you all today, those of the innovators in the room, those who are the technologists in the room, those who have and continue to do so much to grow the economic base of our country. I want to wish you well in the future, congratulate you on your participation in these awards and in particular the Consensus group on their operation of these awards ad wish you all every success in the future.

Thank you very much.

[ends]

Simon Birmingham

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