Policy drivers in 2021 with Frankie Muskovic and Tennant Reed 17 February 2021

From First Fuel: Policy drivers in 2021 with Frankie Muskovic and Tennant Reed

On Wednesday, 3 February, Energy Efficiency Council CEO Luke Menzel was joined by two guests: Francesca Muskovic, National Policy Manager for Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs at the Property Council of Australia, and Tennant Reed, Head of Climate, Energy and Environment Policy at Australian Industry Group, for a lively and informative discussion for First Fuel.

Luke, Frankie and Tennant discussed the energy and climate agenda for 2021.

Below is an edited excerpt of the discussion, which focuses on the growing global momentum around climate action, and how that is flowing through to Australian politics. To hear to the entire discussion, listen here or subscribe to the First Fuel podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.

[Luke] Let’s talk about the implications of the new Biden Administration for collaboration on energy and climate globally. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of attention on the upcoming Conference of Parties in Glasgow in November, but I note that there are a bunch of multilateral events that are taking place over the over the next 10 months, many of which have a strong climate focus. Tennant it strikes me that there's potential for there to be a bit of a drumbeat heading into Glasgow, of these issues being discussed and ambition being ramped up ahead of the next Conference of Parties?

[Tennant] Yes, so every year as there is a calendar of major international events, so there's always the potential for climate and energy to be a big deal in one or another of those. However, this year is looking unusually focused on that.

On April 22nd we have an international heads of governments Climate Summit, convened by Biden - one of his campaign commitments is to do this - where he will be both bringing the US back firmly into the international conversation on climate and pushing other governments to lift their commitments.

Then in June, the G7 will be meeting in England, and the UK, as host of the Conference of the Parties later this year, have control of the agenda for this G7 meeting. They've nominated climate as one of the top four issues that they'll be pushing on, and their number one focus is on higher ambition.

And then we've also got the G20 meeting in Rome in October. Italy is the co-organiser of the COP this year - they're playing a supporting role with the UK - and they are probably going to put it high on the agenda as well. So, all that means the issue isn't going away. It doesn't guarantee that outcomes are going to be reached or that what's printed on the page will be especially meaningful, but it's got a higher chance of being meaningful than usual.

I should add, of course, at the G7 meeting, Australia is a guest and the Prime Minister is invited to that meeting, which is not usually the case with the G7. We are a long-standing member of the G20.  And I think we've got an invite to Biden’s climate summit in April, or are at least hoping for one. So, it's going to be a busy year on either the broadband or the air miles for Australia's diplomats and our leaders. And Australia will need a good story on climate, well told, at all of those meetings.

[Luke] Well, Frankie, I think from all of that we can say confidently, that the Prime Minister and various Australian ministers are going to be sitting around various big tables over the course of 2021 being asked questions about what Australia's position is on climate and mitigation and ambition and the like. How do you think this dramatically shifting international context is going to feed through into the political landscape here in Australia?

[Frankie] That's right. So we're already starting to see this play out in the language used by the federal Government, particularly the Prime Minister. Everyone suspects that we'll go to a federal election towards the end of the year. And anyone who watches the language of political leaders closely could not fail to mark the - I think it's been called widely a “crab walk” - slowly towards a commitment around net zero by the Prime Minister. In his National Press Club address at the start of the week he said we'd like to get to net zero emissions as quickly as possible, preferably by 2050. And I think he said “or maybe sooner,” if the technology provides for that. Even that slight tweak of language was very significant to anyone who follows the language employed by political leaders around climate.

So, the fact that we're probably heading to a federal election around the end of the year, and that timing coinciding with all of those international events that Tennant outlined, means that climate is very likely to be a top-tier election issue this year.

Now, the foundation for that is still very much going to be grounded in their technology focus, and the key product of that being their Technology Roadmap. But there is still an opportunity for them to take a more holistic view on pulling in other key sectoral approaches where there has been some really good policy work done over the last couple of years. So that would be my hope, to turn that process into something more ambitious, leveraging some of the good thinking that's been happening, perhaps a little under the radar.

And then and then very finally, the clear message I'm getting is that this Government is very much taking notice of the Biden administration, and looking at what might be done to - and this I would say happening quietly - align with some of the things that the Biden administration is talking about.

So it's a good time to be thinking about energy efficiency. It's a good time to be thinking about   investing in infrastructure. Some of the other technology focus things that this Government already been prioritising - things like infrastructure to support green hydrogen, and the like - I think perhaps the next time we might see a better articulation of that is the budget coming up in May.

[Luke] Well obviously Frankie it's always a good time to be thinking about energy efficiency…


This article was originally published in the February edition of Efficiency Insight.