UK will be ‘very disappointed’ if Scott Morrison not at Cop26 climate talks

High commissioner to Australia calls on PM to give ‘firm commitment’ to net zero emissions by 2050, saying ‘the time is now’ to raise targets

The UK’s high commissioner to Australia has warned it will be “very disappointed” if Scott Morrison doesn’t attend climate talks in Glasgow, as pressure mounts to lift emissions reduction ambitions.

Vicki Treadell made the comments to ABC Radio National on Wednesday, warning that Australia risks being left behind if it doesn’t embrace a target of net zero emissions by 2050 and more ambitious interim targets at the Cop26 meeting to be attended by hundreds of world leaders.

Morrison has shifted his rhetoric on emissions reduction, suggesting he wants to achieve net zero by 2050 or preferably sooner but is yet to convince his junior Coalition partner, the Nationals, to make such a target official government policy.

Government MPs say the minister for energy and emissions reduction, Angus Taylor, has privately floated the idea that the Coalition could adopt a plan to get to net zero without signing up to the target.

On Tuesday Morrison met with Liberal MPs in marginal and metropolitan seats in a bid to allay concerns that the government may not announce a new target, as no deal has yet been reached with the Nationals, several of who are implacably opposed.

In recent days Morrison has even refused to commit to attend the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, let alone to lift Australia’s 2030 target – a 26-28% cut – that was set six years ago. The target has been widely criticised as not consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement.

On Wednesday Treadell said the UK “very much would love [Morrison] to attend” and was “very hopeful” he would but had not yet received confirmation. The UK “would be very disappointed” if Morrison did not attend but the UK would ask for more ambitious targets from Australia in any event, she told Radio National.

Treadell said the UK would “like all countries to commit clearly and firmly to net zero emissions by 2050”, calling on Morrison to shift his desire to “preferably” achieve that to instead give a “firm commitment”.

Treadell said to be certain to hit net zero by 2050 there needs to be “the means to measure progress”, which explains the “emphasis right now on the medium term 2030, 2035 targets”.

British high commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell.
British high commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Treadell noted the Australian government claims it will exceed its 26-28% emissions reduction target, arguing “if there is analysis of what the direction of travel is and what that level of increase is going to be, one could reset an interim target with that level of expectation”.

Treadell said “the time is now” to raise emissions reduction targets. “International and domestic pressure on this has never been stronger. So either we seize the opportunity to move forward into a low emissions, zero emissions future or we get left behind.”

“The world is moving in that direction and none of us want Australia left behind. Australia has huge potential to be a leader in climate action.”

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On Wednesday the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, appeared at a press conference alongside the emergency management minister and Nationals leader in the Senate, Bridget McKenzie, who earlier in the week accused inner-city MPs without a plan to achieve net zero of the “worst kind of vacuousness over values”

“It is easy for the member for Kooyong or the member for Wentworth to publicly embrace a net zero target before the government has a position, because there would be next to zero real impact on the way of life of their affluent constituents,” she wrote in the Australian Financial Review on Tuesday.

Frydenberg, who has annoyed opponents in the National party by articulating the economic case for net zero emissions, told reporters the debate “shouldn’t be seen as a binary choice between city electorates … and regional electorates”.

On Wednesday McKenzie revised her earlier comments, suggesting that “there are MPs out there – Josh isn’t one of them, [Dave] Sharma [the member for Wentworth] isn’t one of them who want to be cool on climate change, want to be popular without understanding … the consequences of these decisions”.

The comments tone down McKenzie’s earlier intervention, changing targets to implicate independent MPs challenging Liberals over their lack of climate action instead of her own Liberal Coalition colleagues.

Morrison has privately told Liberal MPs that despite public contention between the Coalition partners on net zero, the Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce was playing a positive role in the discussions.

On Wednesday the New South Wales government, also a Liberal-National Coalition, escalated pressure to set a more ambitious national climate target for 2030 by promising to cut the state’s emissions in half this decade.

Morrison has also come under pressure to lift Australia’s ambition on his recent trip to the US. Joe Biden has urged “every nation” to “bring their highest-possible ambitions to the table when we meet in Glasgow” for the climate summit in November and to “keep raising our collective ambition over time”.

The former European Union trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, has warned Australia is becoming “more and more isolated” on climate action.

The Australian government is concerned the European Union’s new carbon tariffs could hit Australian jobs, despite its major exports being largely spared from the first stage of the scheme.


Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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