CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday the country was on track to cut emissions by 35% from 2005 levels by 2030, but he will not commit to a such objective at the United Nations climate conference in Scotland.
Morrison said his government would stick to Australia’s current 2030 target of cutting emissions from 26% to 28% from 2005 levels. The targets were adopted at the Paris conference on the climate in 2015 and are relatively modest compared to the ambitions of other rich countries.
“We will meet it and we will beat it,” Morrison said, referring to the 2030 target.
“We are going to beat it with emission reductions that we think will reach up to 35% and we could even do better,” he added.
The Australian had already cut emissions by more than 20% from 2005 levels, he said.
Australia will commit to a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the Glasgow conference.
Morrison’s Liberal-led Conservative government was narrowly re-elected in 2019 with climate policy that opposed the 2050 net zero target adopted by the opposition center-left Labor Party.
Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquefied natural gas. Morrison said his net zero plan would not shut down Australian coal or gas production or increase costs for households and businesses.
“This is not a revolution but a careful move to take advantage of changes in our markets,” Morrison said.
The government expected that existing technologies would take Australia 85% of the way to net zero and that emerging technologies would reach the rest.
Policy levers include investment in technology and incentives. At least A $ 20 billion ($ 15 billion) would be invested in low-emission technologies by 2030.
Morrison was Cabinet Minister in 2014 when a newly elected government repealed Australia’s two-year carbon tax. The government’s climate policies have since rejected any measure that would make polluters pay for their emissions.
The government has yet to release the economic and climate modeling behind the plan.
Achieving the net zero commitment required political wrangling from Morrison’s ruling party, including winning the support of a junior member of the rural coalition – the Nationals party – with a number of concessions.
One of them was that Resources Minister Keith Pitt, who maintains Australia will continue to export coal for decades to come, was named the fifth Nationals Cabinet Minister. Morrison announced Pitt’s promotion on Monday.
The conditions also include a government review every five years of the economic impacts of the net zero target outside major cities. The first assessment would be delivered in 2023.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham described the reviews as a ‘health check’ of how various parts of Australia were being affected by the transition to net zero.
“What it will do is focus the mind of the government of the day very clearly on where additional investment may be needed to help make the transition,” Birmingham said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will host the next summit in Glasgow, known as COP26, praised Australia for its net zero ambition.
“It was very difficult for Australia because Australia relies very heavily on coal, a lot of carbon producing industries, and they did a heroic thing,” Johnson said, referring to the 2050 pledge.
However, Australia is likely to be criticized in Glasgow for its relatively low 2030 target. The United States has pledged reductions of 50 to 52% from 2005 levels. Britain has pledged to reduce emissions by 68% from 1990 levels.
The country is also one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita due to its heavy reliance on coal energy.
COP26 will assess the progress made since countries agreed in the 2015 Paris agreement to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The Glasgow meeting is widely seen as the last chance to keep global warming at 1.5 C (2.7 F) above pre-industrial levels.
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