Greg Hunt's sales pitch to the world on clean energy, climate action

Environment Minister Greg Hunt will deliver the keynote address at the Future of Energy Summit in Shanghai on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Meares
Environment Minister Greg Hunt will deliver the keynote address at the Future of Energy Summit in Shanghai on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Meares

A flourishing environment and a strong economy can co-exist and Australia intends to escalate efforts to tackle climate change, Environment Minister Greg Hunt will tell a clean energy summit in China on Tuesday, attempting to re-assert the nation's eco-credentials on the world stage after the removal of Tony Abbott as prime minister.

Delivering the keynote address at the Future of Energy Summit in Shanghai, Mr Hunt will emphasise Australia's "positive agenda" to harness energy innovation, support renewable energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions, in a speech that overturns the message implied by the former Abbott government that strong climate change action is a threat to economic growth.

"Underpinning our climate change and broader environment policy is the notion that a clean and healthy environment and a strong economy are equally important. They are not mutually exclusive – we do not have to choose one over the other. We can have both," Mr Hunt's speech notes say.

"We have set ambitious emissions reduction targets and will be part of the crucial international talks in Paris at the end of the year. We are playing [our] part and as we meet our goals, we will aim to do more."

The government continues to weather criticism over its emissions targets and doubts about the financial and environmental soundness of the Emissions Reduction Fund, which uses public money to pay companies to reduce their pollution.

Mr Turnbull's personal views on the need for bold climate action have also been put on ice as he seeks to placate conservative elements of the Liberal Party and, in the past week, the government has been pressured to oppose new coal mines and speed up efforts to reduce harmful vehicle emissions.

But Mr Hunt's appearance at the Shanghai summit, hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, would have been unlikely under Mr Abbott, and signals Australia's willingness to do business with the world, including expanded links with China, as global demand for clean energy generation and storage increases.

Mr Hunt is expected to point to big future investment opportunities as world economies move to lower-emissions energy and pursue ambitious climate change targets.

"The Australian government's renewable and emissions reduction policies and our focus on innovation support this transformation," his speech notes say, citing the new Office of Climate Change and Renewables Innovation.

Older coal plants are being retired and Australia is "undergoing profound changes in the way we produce, distribute and use energy", led by renewables, battery storage and increased energy efficiency.

Mr Hunt will tout the government's help in commercialising Australian renewable technologies deployed in China, such as RayGen resources, which is trialling sun-tracking heliostat mirrors that focus sunlight onto an efficient central receiver and convert a high proportion of sunlight to power.

The renewable energy sector was buoyed by Mr Turnbull's ascension to the leadership following the Abbott government's perceived war on renewables, including abolishing or slashing the budgets of climate-related agencies, reducing the renewable energy target and moving to prohibit government investment in wind and small-scale solar.

Mr Hunt is visiting Shanghai en route to a meeting of the Montreal Protocol in Dubai, where Australia will seek to reduce global ozone and synthetic greenhouse gas emissions.

This story Greg Hunt's sales pitch to the world on clean energy, climate action first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.