Australian Energy Minister Hopes US-China Climate Talks Can Be ‘Ring-Fenced’ From Taiwan Tensions

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Writer
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.
August 14, 2022 Updated: August 15, 2022

Australian Energy Minister Chris Bowen is hoping Washington and Beijing can “ring-fence” climate change issues after talks were shuttered by the Chinese Communist Party in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan.

Beijing announced its “countermeasures” in response to Pelosi’s high-profile visit on Aug. 5 and suspended talks on eight different areas, including climate change, military cooperation, and counter-narcotics.

The Biden administration had been pushing China to do more to address climate change, which is currently the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for around 29 percent of global emissions, with the United States following on around 15 percent, according to the Global Carbon Project.

Australia’s Bowen said it was a “blow” that the climate change talks had been suspended.

Epoch Times Photo
Australian Energy Minister Chris Bowen, with State and Territory counterparts, speaks to the media after a meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Aug. 12, 2022. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

“In all the tensions between China and the United States, the one thing that has been ring-fenced up until now has been climate discussions. They’ve agreed they’ve got a lot to do together.

“We want the world’s two biggest emitters talking with each other, and I do hope those talks are resumed, and that suspension is lifted because that is a blow, and it would be better if those talks resumed,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Insider program on Aug. 14.

Bowen also applauded the Biden administration for managing to pass the Inflation Reduction Act that will see the U.S. federal government pump US$369 billion into climate change initiatives.

“Congratulations to the Administration and Congress for getting on with it,” he said.

Hopes for More Local Manufacturing

Meanwhile, the energy minister also hoped that under the Labor government—which has embraced stronger climate change action—he could spur more local manufacturing of solar panels. Currently, around 85 percent of the world’s solar panels are made in China and are likely to rise to 90 percent in the near future.

“We should be making more solar panels in Australia. We’ve got 60 million solar panels on our roof over the last 10 years. One percent of them is made in Australia,” Bowen said.

“We can do a lot better than that,” he added while saying he would “want to” have a mechanism to enforce local manufacturing.

However, despite the minister’s urgency, Scott Schlink, an energy lawyer at Holding Redlich, said that in the “foreseeable future,” Australia would continue to rely on overseas manufacturers for renewable energy components in solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries.

“Production in South Korea and China is a significant part of that import,” he previously told The Epoch Times.

“A big part of the decision [with manufacturing] comes down simply to the cost per unit of electricity—who’s got the cheapest cost of energy. And so, it quickly becomes a pricing decision, and that puts a huge amount of strain on those companies to aggressively minimise their supply chain costs.

“I’d like to see more Australian industry for manufacturing, but my cynicism comes from the fact that there have been companies trying to increase local content for a decade or two in the turbine manufacturing space, and they haven’t necessarily had a lot of success.”

Further, Schlink believed renewable energy had a “long way to go” before it became the dominant supplier of power in Australia.

“I think all of the manufacturers are going to struggle to get enough supply into the market over the next decade,” he said. “The amount of non-fossil fuel supplies need to increase, yet at the same time, demand for electricity is also spiking up considerably.”

“There’s going to be a continued strain on electricity production over the next couple of decades.”

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.