The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has said Australia is “really good at digging stuff up” while announcing a clean energy summit after the first in-person meeting of the leaders of Australia, the United States, India and Japan.
Speaking outside the White House at the end of the meeting of leaders that make up the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Morrison said Australia would host the summit next year under the Quad umbrella and take a bigger role in the supply of critical minerals in the Indo-Pacific region.
The gathering of the four major democracies was being closely observed by China, which earlier this week said it was “doomed to fail”.
Morrison said he and the US president, Joe Biden, were “on the same page” on China, which has been steadily increasing its military and political influence in the Indo-Pacific region to the alarm of the US and others.
“What we talked about today is how we achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific and the way you do that is that countries like Australia and India and the United States and Japan, we stand up for the values that we believe in,” Morrison told reporters in Washington.
“We resist any suggestion or any pressure that would come on any of us to be anything different to what we are, and we want that opportunity for all countries in the Indo-Pacific.”
On the planned climate summit to be held in Australia in 2022, Morrison said it would be an “applied summit” focusing on expert research and technology.
It aims to deliver a roadmap to transfer scientific knowledge on clean energy to countries in the Indo-Pacific.
“This is about … pulling together a very clear work program as to how clean energy supply chains can be built up,” Morrison said, without giving more details.
It was an honor to host the Prime Ministers of Australia, India, and Japan this afternoon for the first-ever in-person Quad Leaders Summit. We share a common vision for the future, and we’re coming together to meet the key challenges of the 21st century. pic.twitter.com/OQYRvzkqeQ
— President Biden (@POTUS) September 24, 2021
He said the Quad leaders recognised the role a Australia can play in the supply of critical minerals to support energy and other technologies.
“We are really good at digging stuff up in Australia and making sure it can fuel the rest of the world when it comes to the new energy economy,” Morrison said.
Critical minerals are metals and non-metals, like rare earth elements, deemed “at-risk” due to scarcity, geopolitical issues, trade policy or other factors.
They are used in the manufacture of semiconductors, mobile phones, flat-screen monitors, wind turbines, electric cars, solar panels and many other high-tech products, including defence equipment.
Morrison was speaking ahead of the release of the official Quad communique, and before he leaves the US to head back to Australia.
Morrison, Biden, the Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, also discussed the supply and delivery of more than 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses for developing Indo-Pacific countries.
The last meeting of Quad leaders was held online in March.
The leaders underlined their support for people trying to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country and the departure of US troops after 20 years.
Morrison said the Quad, including Australia, wanted to help as many people as possible under their humanitarian programs.
“We want to be able to facilitate that,” he said without giving further details.
In a video recorded before he left Canberra that was delivered overnight to UN general assembly, Morrison defended Australia’s record on reducing carbon emissions without setting a timetable for net zero.
“We are committed to achieving net zero emissions,” Morrison said. “We know the world is transitioning to a new energy economy. It’s no longer about if – or even when for that matter. It’s about how.
“How we achieve the reduction in global emissions – in our own emissions, in individual nations’ emissions – while still lifting living standards across all nations.
“And the answer, as history has shown us time and time again, it’s technology – practical, scalable and commercially viable technologies.”
On Friday, the federal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, told business leaders the Morrison government cannot run the risk of financial markets “falsely” assuming Australia is a climate change pariah because that would increase the cost of capital and undermine financial system stability.