Mr Duke has also been putting pressure on Australia to join the 120 governments that have so far signed on to the Biden administration’s global initiative to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by the end of the decade, something that was rejected by the Morrison government at the Glasgow climate summit last November but which the Albanese government is reviewing.
Mr Duke said methane had been a key part of the agenda in his discussions in Australia. He indicated he expected some movement by the Albanese government, saying he was “very encouraged” by the commitment to address methane emissions in the Australian economy.
“The level of enthusiasm of those discussions is hard to overstate,” he said. “We have so much work to do. It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to kickstart that work here in person, and of course we will be following up intensively on all these topics.”
Joining the Global Methane Pledge is opposed by the National Farmers’ Federation. Agriculture is the biggest contributor to Australia’s emissions of methane, which are 80 times more potent in global warming than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. Oil and gas producers have also held off from endorsing a move to join the initiative, while saying they are fully committed to cutting methane emissions.
But Mr Duke said reducing the methane intensity of oil, gas and coal production was critical to mitigate the impact of the continuing need for fossil fuels to help ensure energy security while the transition to low-carbon energy and clean technologies took place.
He said the European Union’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the energy price spikes and energy security concerns that went with it made it clear that the answer to the crisis was to double down on the energy transition, and to move faster to a renewable energy future for vehicles, power supply, industry and buildings.
“Of course at the same time, the transition will take time. It is complicated and ultimately slower than we would like to transform the global economy to a carbon-free future that is based in all those clean technologies,” he said.
“In the interim, it’s important that we work together to ensure that the fossil fuels that we continue to use during that transition are as clean as possible.”
Mr Duke noted that methane in the atmosphere already accounts for half a degree of today’s 1.1 centigrade of warming, and methane emissions are still rising, but the Global Methane Pledge initiative represented a commitment to work together to turn that around and “pump the brakes” on climate change.
He said the “major diplomatic partnership” between Australia and the US also paved the way for joint work to support the transition to net zero in countries such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
“We’re here to roll up our sleeves and work together on that shared set of objectives, building on our long-standing partnership, in overall questions like our security, to also then focus with vigour on climate security and shared opportunities together in that space.”
Mr Duke’s visit builds on that by US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in July, when Australia and the US signed a new climate technology partnership and alliances to secure the global supply of critical minerals with the aim of reducing reliance on China in important areas of technology needed for the transition.
He said the US was eager to see the alliances unfold into action ahead.
“I think much more is possible in coming months and years,” he said.
“Because of these durable, more-than-a-decade incentives for deployment of all these solutions in the American economy, that does also present substantial opportunities for Australian foreign direct investment in the United States economy.”
Mr Duke pointed to incentives of $US3 a kilogram to encourage production of carbon0-free hydrogen, and a $US85 per tonne of CO2 incentive for carbon capture and utilisation.