OPINION

Speech Prime Minister Scott Morrison should give to Glasgow summit

The speech Scott Morrison should deliver

World War II presented an intractable problem for Winston Churchill. The situation looked miserable. With leadership in the face of adversity, he motivated England to "fight them on the beaches, fight them in the street". He implored Roosevelt to join the effort, which America did with the Arsenal of Democracy, out-producing Germany in manufacturing the machines needed to win the war.

Climate change is such a war, and an even more intractable problem. As the Prime Minister of an enormous fossil fuel exporter, I know intimately the questions of economics, sovereignty, jobs and security, that make the politics as difficult as the science, the scale, and the timeline.

But I stand here today to make a commitment to the world that Australia will not only do its part, but that we are here to lead, and to help all nations meet our collective challenge. Built into the poetry and culture of our country are the stories of our great natural resources, but also of our fragile continent. Australia is a nation with everything to lose, but also everything to win. We have sunshine, we have industrial capacity, we have a willing and trained workforce.

The people of my nation are scared. They have experienced terrible fires, droughts, and floods, and the loss of our prized national assets such as the Great Barrier Reef. They want action, leadership, vision, and optimism. We are in danger of a collective nihilism, particularly among our youth, if we do not provide them a story where their future is bright, abundant, better. They need to envision their role in a story of getting their planet, from here to a better there.

You will associate Australia's name in climate circles with delay, with deceit, with inaction. Today is the day all of that changes. We have sharpened our pencils. We are a people of action and results, not a people of promises. We know what to do, and we know how to do it. We also know we are responsible for an outsized portion of the carbon in the atmosphere, and we would like now to make up for that with an outsize response to stabilize and then improve our climate and our ecosystems.

Climate science really wants us to be better than net-zero 2050. Now is the time for no-delay, no-regrets, no-turning back action. In this decade to deliver, Australia will. Our plan comes in two parts. Part one is this decade, our domestic economy. Part two is next decade, our export economy.

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We have achieved an economic miracle in Australia on the roofs of our citizen's houses. Australian rooftop solar is the cheapest electricity delivered to the consumer anywhere in the world. We achieved this with classic public-private partnerships and a long-term commitment to the industry. We will now do the same with the rest of our household and commercial energy systems. We will electrify everything, our vehicles, our kitchens, our homes, our businesses. In Australia we might be a little slow at getting started, but once we get going, we get the job done. Our citizens will enjoy the cheapest energy they've ever had, their indoor air quality will improve, the outdoor air quality as well. Our children will be healthier as will our waterways as we make this vital transition.

As you all care about dates and targets, we intend to set the mark and to lead. Because Australia is best positioned to go first, we will go first. We will eliminate carbon emissions from our domestic energy economy by 2030. We will show you the path, and we will partner with you with the technology solutions we develop along the way.

I have come to see climate change like COVID-19: a difficult problem that requires a vaccine. We know that electrification of everything is the vaccine for climate change, and we are going to develop that vaccine at Warp Speed. We also know that like COVID, we were more successful by going hard, and going early. By pushing harder and faster, our economy will reap the benefits of electrification sooner, saving billions of dollars a year on our domestic cost of energy.

Many of you around the globe rely on our exports of fossil fuels, and of the world class products of our agricultural sector. Fear not, we won't cut you off from these commodities; we will transition with you, just as we will transition with our workforce, our businesses, our unions, our farmers. Unlike the electrification technologies that can eliminate carbon from our homes and businesses, the technologies for zeroing out the emissions on our meat and wheat, our iron and aluminium are not quite there. I also know for many nations, your geography is not as favorable for renewables as ours, so part two of our plan is by 2040 to be providing green steel, green aluminum and the other critical materials of the zero emissions future: lithium, silicon, copper, rare-earths, even uranium. We have it all and will process it into the materials for the future. You see, we plan not just to be 100 per cent clean energy by 2040, but 500 per cent. We will be the world's foundry, we'll make the world's ammonia and hydrogen, and we'll even store the world's carbon in rebuilding our soils through agricultural sequestration.

We will create savings in our suburbs, and jobs in our regions and show the world the pathway to whole-economy success. The time has come for action; the time has come to lead. As a small nation of hard-working, quiet achievers with everything to win, and everything to lose, we shall go first and fastest. Let our ambition be your ambition. Please follow us, for your children and for ours.

  • Dr Saul Griffith is the founder of Rewiring Australia.
This story The speech Scott Morrison should deliver first appeared on The Canberra Times.