Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Friday that the federal government’s position on a net-zero emissions target will be addressed before he jets out to attend the United Nations UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this month.
Under increasing domestic and international pressure to adopt more ambitious climate targets, Morrison had previously suggested he would not attend the climate conference but he has now reconsidered, describing the meeting as “an important event”.
“Overnight I confirmed my attendance at the Glasgow Summit, which I’m looking forward to,” he said on Friday.
Australia, the world’s second-biggest exporter of coal, has been under pressure from allies to step up its climate pledge with the federal government’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions well below those made by the United States, European Union and the United Kingdom, among other developed nations.
Australia’s federal government is currently committed to reducing emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030 but it has not yet adopted a net-zero emissions target.
Morrison has previously said his desire is to reach net zero as soon as possible and “preferably” by 2050 but internal division within the government has prevented him from setting a legislated target.
It now appears he is leaning towards adopting a net-zero emissions target for 2050, and possibly a stronger 2030 target as well, ahead of the COP26 conference which commences on October 31.
A draft emissions plan was put to Cabinet on Wednesday with National Party members to meet on Sunday to discuss whether they will back the Liberal Party’s proposal.
While Morrison did not detail any new targets on Friday, he said the government’s position would be set out before he leaves for Glasgow.
“The government will be finalising its position for me to take to that summit prior to my departure over the next fortnight,” he said.
Morrison stressed that any commitment would “not just about hitting net zero” by 2050.
“That’s an important environmental goal,” he said. “But, what’s important is that Australia’s economy goes from strength to strength, and the livelihoods and the lives that Australians know, particularly in rural and regional areas, are able to go forward with hope and with confidence.
“And that’s what my plan will be all about, and I look forward to furthering those discussions in the weeks ahead.
“The challenge is not about the if and the when, the challenge is about the how. And I’m very focused on the how, because the global changes that are happening in our economy as a result of the response to climate change have a real impact, and they will have a real impact here in Australia.
“We are working through those issues with our Cabinet and with our colleagues, and I look forward to those discussions concluding over the next couple of weeks.
The Glasgow conference runs from October 30 until November 12.
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