ACTING Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says the rise of a "more totalitarian" China is a greater "existential risk" than climate change.
The National Party leader, member for New England and Deputy Prime Minister was in Taree and Forster-Tuncurry yesterday with his party colleague David Gillespie, the member for Lyne.
In charge of the country while Prime Minister Scott Morrison is in Europe for the G20 and Glasgow COP26 meetings, Mr Joyce told the Newcastle Herald about the National Party view of the climate change debate and why he believes it's the world of renewable energy - and not coal and nuclear supporters such as himself - who are building their "net zero by 2050" policies on "technological pipe dreams".
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The Coalition's "net zero" pledge has been criticised by the environmental lobby as lacking detail but Mr Joyce said it was the renewable industry boosters who were promising things they could not achieve.
"With wind and solar you need firming, you need storage," Mr Joyce said yesterday.
"At the moment they're like a car that is going downhill and they say 'look at my car, it's not using any petrol, look how efficient it is!'.
"Well, cars need to go uphill as well, and it's gas (firming) that drives the electricity up the hill."
He endorsed gas but warned against a UK-style reliance that had contributed to their energy problems: 800,000 people a night losing power, and a six-fold price increase forcing people to decide whether to "eat or heat" going into Winter.
The Coalition has only confirmed broad aspects of negotiations with the Nationals during "net zero" negotiations but Mr Joyce confirmed a fund to help build "headworks so other companies can come in" to what he called "parallel industry" needed to replace the jobs lost coal jobs.
He also confirmed "explicit" ruling out of methane penalties, with Mr Morrison saying at Glasgow that Australia would not join a global pledge to cut methane emissions.
Mr Joyce defended "targets" rather than "legislation", saying people needed to "go willingly, not be dragged by the nose" into costly change.
He named five towns - Walcha, Crookwell and three New England villages of Nundle, Kentucky and Ben Lomond - as "split in two" by fights over wind turbines.
"In my area it's between where the wind towers are, and the people nearby, who don't want them there," Mr Joyce said.
"I'm trying to manage that problem and it's getting worse.
"Everything in small number is a novelty, people are okay with it.
"But when it's all over the landscape the political landscape changes.
"Everyone loves wind turbines, but see if (Labor's Shortland MP) Pat Conroy wants one at Nobbys."
Mr Joyce said the people who earned income from turbines on their land liked them, but landowners forced into hosting the resultant high-voltage transmission towers were not so happy.
Asked his view on climate change, Mr Joyce said he agreed "there is an effect by people on the climate".
"But I temper that by saying there is nothing we can do in Australia to change that by ourselves and there is not a thing we can do without China, India and Russia on board, with emissions so vastly in excess of other countries that you have to be very careful not to sign up to something that absolutely tears you apart but has no effect," Mr Joyce said.
The IPCC could not achieve its aims without China, India and Russia cooperating.
He said Labor talked about climate change as an "existential risk" but would not back nuclear energy to keep emissions down.
"If I'm rating risk in this region I'm saying geopolitical change is the biggest risk by far," Mr Joyce said.
"Climate change is an issue but the one that could completely and utterly change the freedoms you took for granted - that you can say what you want, do what you want, control your nation in the form you want - well, the one thing that will change that will be the change in the geopolitics of our region, the rise of China, especially if it goes into a more totalitarian regime without the tempering capacity of a range of people in positions of power.
"A unitary power under one leader. That's always very, very concerning no matter where you are in the world."
When the Herald described Australia's refusal to count Scope 3 emissions from its coal burned overseas as "the drug dealer's defence of I didn't use the drugs, I simply sold them", Mr Joyce said the argument did not apply because drugs killed people and ruined families, while coal generated power that kept people warm and had helped pull countless people out of dire poverty.
It was "a moral good".
He said he still supported new coal-fired power stations if needed.
During his tour through the electorate of Lyne, Mr Joyce was taken to see four federally funded projects: Figtrees on the Manning, the Taree Universities Campus, Forster Main Beach foreshore and the Forster civic precinct.
Dr Gillespie said the Figtrees on the Manning development was almost half finished and would encourage hundreds of millions of dollars worth of residential and commercial real estate development and a pedestrian and cycle corridor connecting Taree CBD with the city's regional sports facilities.
Dr Gillespie said Mr Joyce was also shown around Taree Universities Campus, which was looking at the former council office building as a potential long-term home.
He said the Forster civic precinct project was under way and Forster Surf Club was being redeveloped with the federal government having contributed $3.59 million towards a $6.3 million project.
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