The push for a conscience vote comes after two Liberal MPs called on the Morrison Government to set a climate target of net zero emissions by 2050 after the House of Representatives Environment and Energy Committee moved to reject two climate change bills aimed at formally legislating the target.
The proposed legislation, introduced to the House of Representatives last year by Steggall, sought to establish an independent climate change commission to manage emissions reduction targets and to legislate a target of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The Coalition-led committee examining the climate change bills has however stated Australia’s current approach to reducing emissions is adequate and has recommended the bills not be passed by Parliament.
The committee’s report, tabled on Wednesday, outlines concerns the net zero by 2050 target “would give rise to a series of risks including adverse impacts on the economy, specific sectors and jobs”.
The committee also rejected the proposed commission, declaring it would “steer formal policy decisions away from the Parliament and the Executive to an unelected body”.
Liberal backbenchers Trent Zimmerman and Bridget Archer supported the rejection of the legislation but in a joint response to the inquiry called on the government to “include a national commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050” in a long-term emissions reduction strategy due to be released before the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow in November.
“The government should consider the best ways to provide certainty to business and the community in relation to this commitment,” the pair said in an additional statement to the report.
Steggall said she welcomed the duo’s commitment to the net zero target but called on them “actually act in accordance with their views” and vote accordingly.
“Moderate MPs like Trent Zimmerman, like Bridget Archer, they talk a big game on wanting to commit to net zero,” Steggall said.
“But the question really comes down to, when are you going to vote for it? What are you going to do about it?
“What I would really like to see a conscience vote. Open it up. Let’s really see who does want to commit to better climate change action.”
Steggall said she was “disappointed, but not surprised” by the committee’s report, claiming it ignored key evidence from business and industry groups.
“Never has a Liberal government been so out of step with the Australian business and investment community on a key issue as the current government led by Scott Morrison,” she said.
“They are completely out of step with business, investment, the AMA. All sectors came out really strongly during the inquiry to say that this was the framework that would really assist, that would really help give clarity, give investment certainty and ensure that Australia was properly prepared for the reality of climate change and its impacts which are going to be significant.
“The Coalition is completely hamstrung and has no clear climate policy. They are really at the mercy now of the Nationals with Barnaby Joyce and are really holding back any clear vision.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is “preferable” but has so far resisted growing international pressure to commit to the target.
Steggall said she would continue to push for the bills to be brought forward for a vote in the House of Representatives.
“We know the vast majority of Australians want more action on climate change, there’s no doubt that net zero by 2050 is a bare minimum commitment, we need to make,” she said.
“What we really need to make is doubling our commitment to 2030.”
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