Andrew Brown and Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)
Australia will take “serious policy decisions” to climate talks in Glasgow, a senior Morrison government minister says.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his cabinet are working on a plan to achieve net zero emissions, preferably by 2050, through a combination of technologies including hydrogen, solar, hydro, soil carbon, electric cars and methane-reducing livestock feed.
Mr Morrison and other national leaders are under pressure to lift their emission cut ambitions at the COP26 summit in November, in a bid to keep the global temperature rise under long-term damaging levels.
A decision has not yet been made on whether the prime minister will attend in person.
But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said whichever ministers attended would take the talks seriously.
“What matters most is the fact that we’ll be taking serious policy decisions to those discussions,” Senator Birmingham told Tasmania Talks radio.
“We want to make sure that we keep those emissions going down on the trajectory towards net zero.”
Many Nationals and Liberal members have been pushing back on climate policy, arguing it needs to ensure rural and regional communities are not adversely impacted.
Senator Birmingham said it was the right question to ask.
“It’s why we’re investing such record sums in creating new hydrogen industries … increased soil capture,” he said.
“These are the smart things that we are investing in as part of our ‘technology, not taxes’ agenda to achieve net zero, but also to protect the jobs and livelihoods of Australians on the way through.”
Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud said any plan needed to show “who is going to pay” or his party would not support it.
“We want to look the Australian people in the eye and the people in regional Australia in the eye and tell you how we’re going to get there and who is going to pay for it,” he told ABC TV.
“That gives you not just standing in the community, but in the global community.”
Moderate Liberals such as North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman says climate measures will benefit the regions.
“Right now, (the Nationals) are focused on what the economic transition would be, but the tide is shifting,” he told ABC radio.
“It will be a driver of new jobs and industries and this is the silver lining of the climate change cloud.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said regional areas would be among the hardest hit locations if an emissions target was not created, due to more frequent natural disasters.
“The Nationals have been taken over by conspiracy theorists, accountants and bankers who like to play dress-up, but what we need is a serious policy going forward,” he said.
“Action on climate change is good for jobs and the economy and the environment.
“What people in regional areas have to fear is inaction on climate change.”
The Nationals are next due to meet as a party room when parliament resumes in mid-October.
Queensland senator Matt Canavan indicated there would be no way he would support net zero emissions.
“The UN said if you go to net-zero, you would have to end (the coal industry) by 2030, and it’s not something I can contemplate.”
Nationals senator and minister Bridget McKenzie said it was easy for urban Liberals like Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to push for the target because the impact on their “affluent constituents” would be minimal.