Topics: Putin and Xi meeting; IPCC report; Samoan Prime Minister speech; Australia’s influence on emissions reductions;

08:00AM AEDT
Tuesday, 21 March 2023


Simon Birmingham: Overnight we saw the meeting take place between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. This meeting, we need to remember, took place against the backdrop of just days ago, the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin because of the atrocities and war crimes that he has committed in Ukraine. It comes while we continue to see the illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine undertaken. And yet we have talked about friendship without limitations. That is disturbing and a reminder about the challenges that autocracies place on the global world order. On the support for the international rules-based order. Now, I hope that behind the scenes and the advocacy for a cessation of the illegal and immoral war in Ukraine was stronger, was clearer, and that it can yield dividends because not only is that causing such pain and suffering for the people of Ukraine, but it is reverberating continually around the world in the types of economic shocks and disruptions that it is causing.


Journalist: Are you concerned that China could offer Russia weapons of war for the war in Ukraine? And what should Australia do if that was to happen?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it would be a terrible escalation by China for them to support Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine. There was talk from Xi Jinping about wanting to work with Russia to support the international rules-based order underpinned by the United Nations if they’re genuine about that. It starts with respect for sovereignty. It starts with respect for territorial integrity. And that starts with respect for Ukraine and its borders and certainly not with the provision of weapons.


Journalist: The IPCC has released its report into climate change. It’s calling for an urgent transition to renewables. Do you think that’s going to shift the debate at all here in Canberra in terms of a safeguard mechanism and that transition to renewables?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the IPCC report will be no doubt another important and valuable document for the world to consider. I look forward to reviewing it over the coming days and weeks. It was only released overnight and there will be messages in there for Australia to consider about the most economically effective pathways to decarbonise and to reach net zero. But critically, there are messages for the world as well, and it is a reminder that we cannot look at the emissions reduction tasks in a purely domestic landscape. They require global action from particularly countries with large growing profiles of emissions such as China and India.


Journalist: We had a speech from the Samoan Prime Minister overnight. She again called for the world to reduce emissions, particularly when it comes to Pacific nations. Given that we’ve had this IPCC report and that we have our Pacific neighbours continuously calling for reductions in emissions, what should Australia response be? Should we be ratcheting up our emissions reductions?


Simon Birmingham: It was a powerful speech by the Samoan Prime Minister last night. I was happy to be there and indeed, the bringing together of the timing of her speech, her presence and the release of the IPCC report does underpin the importance of global cooperation. And we know that any one country or just a few countries acting more strongly on their own won’t change the dial. But globally, countries working together can change the dial when it comes to projections for climate change and the voices of Pacific Island nation leaders are perhaps the most powerful voices, and that is why they have such an important role to play. Why it was important for the Prime Minister to be in Australia to give that speech, to reject that message not just to our nation, which we need to hear, but to nations around the world which they all need to hear to.


Journalist: You talk about countries working together to move the dial and the importance of countries like China and India bringing down their emissions. Do you think there could be then from Australia a bigger diplomatic effort to bring the world together, to bring down emissions? Because like you say, on our own, we can’t do a lot. But is there a role for Australia to play bringing countries together on it?


Simon Birmingham: Australia is an advanced developed economy and so we have a leading role to play, setting an example and helping to drive technological changes in helping to ensure that we are providing the type of example to the rest of the world, but doing it realistically as well, understanding the limitations of what can be achieved, the implications for our economy and actually what other countries are doing. Of course, we have roles to play diplomatically too, but we also live in a highly contested world with enormous geopolitical challenges. And so, the reality, though, is that we need all countries, whatever their differences, to recognise the messages from the IPCC report and to be willing to engage and respond to them. But we should speak honestly in this country about the challenges in other high emitting, high growth countries and the need to get them to undertake more action, just as we have the debates about the domestic landscape and what we do here. Thanks, guys.