Australia’s coal exports will gradually decline, not because of any government decision to adopt net zero emissions by 2050, but because of decisions by major export customers like South Korea and Japan, Scott Morrison has told colleagues.
In an address to a special meeting of Liberal MPs on Monday morning, Mr Morrison also said that the Biden Administration coming to power in the United States was a “game changer” in terms of global pressure to act.
While Mr Morrison is seeking the support of the Nationals to formally commit to net zero emissions by 2050, sources said he confirmed to the Liberal Party meeting that the Coalition would not increase its 2030 target to reduce emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent over 2005 levels.
Mr Morrison told colleagues the 26 per cent to 28 per cent target, agreed to by the Abbott government at the Paris climate summit in 2015, was an election commitment in 2019 and “we are not going to break an election commitment”.
Instead, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor confirmed that this week he will release projections showing Australia was on track to beat the 2030 target, possibly with a 32 per cent to 35 per cent reduction over 2005 levels.
“Achievement is what counts here. We have the runs on the board, we’ll continue to have runs on the scoreboard. And importantly, importantly it’s outcomes that matter to solve this problem,“” Mr Taylor said.
“Our projections have always improved on the previous year. We set a target, we meet it, and we beat it.”
The Nationals also met again Monday morning to further discuss the net zero proposal and the tens of billions of dollars in regional support programs that are on the table should they sign up.
Mr Morrison, who will travel to the Glasgow climate change summit in early November, needs at least the 2050 commitment in his back pocket.
He told the party room the global economic reality was that the world was transitioning towards net zero and Australia had no choice but to adapt its economy or be left behind.
“The Biden Administration is a game changer in terms of global attitudes,” he was quoted as saying by one MP.
Mr Morrison said decisions of Australia’s major export partners to embrace net zero by 2050 would decide the fate of coal and other fossil fuel exports and global pressure would only build.
He said the technology road map to assist that transition and which would rely on such technologies as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, was about investment, not penalties.
Labor, he said has a target but no plan whereas the Coalition would have both.
Shadow climate change minister Chris Bowen said the public had had enough of the Coalition’s internecine warfare over climate change.
“I’m sick of this toxic identity politics that the government is addicted to of dividing Australia between urban and regional Australians,” he said.
“Every Australian is entitled to be just frustrated and white hot in anger that their Government is not governing in the national interest.”
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, whose party is divided on the mater, said colleagues were yet to be convinced, but he did not want to blow up the Coalition.
“The Nationals are part of a coalition because we believe that’s the best form of government. And we’ll try and always make sure that that works. But we’re not chained to a script,” he said.
While the focus is on the regions, Liberal MP Melissa McIntosh spoke up for her Western Sydney seat of Lindsay.
“Local manufacturers want to do the right thing, but they also want to know what net zero will mean for their business and job creation in Western Sydney,′ she said.
“It’s important that our plan focuses on sustaining our manufacturing industry, which in my electorate alone employs over 6,000 people.
“I’ve been speaking with my Advanced Manufacturing Taskforce, with leaders in manufacturing, industry, science, and education, and hearing directly from manufacturers on the ground.
“The message is clear. Bring Western Sydney manufacturing along, don’t leave us behind.”