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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Prospects firm for net zero emissions deal

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By Georgie Moore and Matt Coughlan in Canberra
Source: AAP

Australia’s prospects of locking in a target for net zero emissions by 2050 are firming as the Nationals outline their key demands to the prime minister.

Senior Nationals members will on Thursday spell out to Scott Morrison the conditions required to secure the junior coalition partner’s backing.

They warned there would be political hell to pay should Mr Morrison take the net zero target to COP26 climate talks in 10 days’ time without the consent of the majority of Nationals members.

Mr Morrison has sought to balance promises to protect coal and gas jobs with international expectations for Australia to step up its climate commitments.

“We’re getting emissions down and employment up,” he told parliament on Thursday.

“We’re seeing exports go up, the resources industry, the natural gas industry, the LNG industry … under the policies of the government.”

The government will not raise its 2030 target to reduce emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels because the proposal is incendiary within the Nationals.

But it is expected Energy Minister Angus Taylor will announce revised emissions projections in coming days.

“We have a strong track record of bringing down emissions and delivering affordable and reliable power,” Mr Taylor said.

Countries including France have urged Australia to attend climate talks in Glasgow with ambitious mid-term targets and not just a 2050 pledge to which most nations have already agreed.

Nationals politicians have derided job opportunities from renewables despite widespread businesses expectations it can provide an economic boom for Australia.

When asked in parliament if he believed – as he had stated previously – renewables did not work, Resources Minister Keith Pitt replied: “Find me solar battery that works in the dark”.

He rejected reports he had put a $250 billion loan facility for the resources sector on the table in the talks.

“We’ll continue to work on serious policy,” he told parliament.

Nationals senator Susan McDonald expects the party to strike a deal on net zero because of broad community support for the target and the demand from industry for certainty.

“They are keen that Australia – as we do in so many other forums whether it be trade, peacekeeping forces – stand at the big table, and Australians are keen that we continue to do that in this climate change discussion,” she told the ABC.

Federal minister Jane Hume also believed the tortured negotiations for a net zero target would be resolved in time for Glasgow.

“Making sure the National Party are speaking to their people, speaking to their constituents, that’s half the battle won,” she said.

“I’m very confident we’ll get to a very comfortable position we can take to Glasgow, and I’m confident we’ll be bringing Australians on the journey.”

Nationals members are due to meet again on Sunday to discuss Mr Morrison’s response to their demands.

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