Despite public sentiment, Morrison government goes it alone on gas


Having recently committed to a gas-led energy plan – which opponents argue is neither a sustainable investment nor a cleaner alternative to coal – the Morrison Government is facing renewed calls to set out a clear strategy to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and combat the climate change crisis.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his Australian counterpart during a phone conversation earlier this week that it’s time for “bold action” on climate change.

Johnson emphasised the importance of setting ambitious targets to cut emissions and reach net zero, noting that the UK’s experience shows that driving economic growth and reducing emissions can go hand in hand.

The UK has prioritised climate action and last year legislated a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They are among more than 70 countries which have adopted the 2050 target with Japan and South Korea among the latest to commit. Individually, every Australian state has also signed up to net zero emissions by 2050 – either as a target or goal.

The Federal Government has however declined to adopt a net zero target and Morrison this week declared Australia will decide its own climate change policies.

“I am very aware of the many views held around the world, but I tell you what, our policies will be set here in Australia,” he said.

“Our policies won’t be set in the United Kingdom, they won’t be set in Brussels, they won’t be set in any part of the world other than here.”

Labor’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said the stance was more evidence that Australia is increasingly “internationally isolated” on climate policy.

Renewables wildly popular

The stance also appears out of step with community sentiment with new research indicating Australian’s concerns about the climate are rapidly growing. The 2020 Climate of the Nation report, released on Wednesday, found that two of three Australians would prefer the government opted for investing in renewable energy as the pathway out of recession, rather than fossil fuels.

The report, released by The Australia Institute, has been produced annually for more than a decade and tracks Australian attitudes to climate change.

This year, it polled almost 2,000 Australian voters and found just 12% of those surveyed prefer investment in gas, while the majority (59%) would like to see a focus on renewables.

The report also shows the vast majority (83%) want to see coal-fired power stations phased out. Some 65% want the Australian government to stop new coal mines from being developed.

Australia Institute climate and energy director Richie Merzian said the Morrison government’s commitment to gas is “not backed by popular support”.

“There is one clear message, most Australians want more renewables and less fossil fuels,” Merzian said. “That means phase out coal-fired power stations, bypass a gas-fired transition and plug into renewables to power their future.”

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