Scott Morrison has warned against creating “needless anxiety” in children about climate change.
The prime minister says he always likes to make sure his own daughters, aged 10 and 12, have perspective and context on the issue.
“I think there’s a lot of disinformation out there about, frankly, what Australia is doing,” he told reporters in New York overnight.
“I want children growing up in Australia to feel positive about their future.
“And I think it’s important that we give them that confidence that they will not only have a wonderful country and pristine environment to live in but they’ll also have an economy they can live in as well.”
Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg lambasted world leaders in her address to the UN summit this week, which Mr Morrison missed while he gave a speech in Chicago.
“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction – and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth,” she said.
“How dare you!”
Mr Morrison says he doesn’t get into the “nitty-gritty” on emissions reductions targets and the Kyoto protocol and Paris agreement with his daughters Lily and Abbey.
“But we talk about fossil fuels and we talked about what they learned at school, and I encourage them to have a passionate and independent view about how they see the world – but I also give them a lot of context,” he said.
“I don’t allow them to be, basically, contorted into one particular view.
“I also like to give them reassurance because the worst thing I would impose on any child is needless anxiety.”
Mr Morrison and his government maintain that Australia will easily meet its commitment to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels over the next decade.
The country’s emissions have risen since 2014.
“I always like kids to be kids – we can’t have them sort of growing up as mushrooms either,” Mr Morrison said.
“But at the same time, I think we’ve got to get a bit of context and perspective into this.”
He intends to use his address to the UN on Wednesday to focus on practical environmental measures, such as plastics recycling.
“We need to take action on climate change but there are actually issues like plastics in our oceans which present even more immediate threats, not only to the wellbeing of our oceans … but they have quite significant impacts on health,” he said.