Scott Morrison says he wants to explain emissions plan to Australians before ‘people overseas’
PM implies he won’t attend Glasgow climate summit, saying people in the Hunter, Queensland and Victoria’s west are his first responsibility – after he’s met with the Nationals
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, says he wants to explain the government’s emissions reduction plan – once it is agreed with the Nationals – to affected workers in Australia first, as he flags he will not attend the Cop26 Glasgow climate summit in November.
While saying he is yet to make a firm decision on his attendance at the United Nations Cop26 summit, Morrison on Tuesday said he would face another 14 days in quarantine if he did attend, and also pointed to the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Adern, as “also not attending”.
“My first responsibility once we agree our plan for technology and the plan that will see us reduce emissions over the long term, my first responsibility is to explain that to Australians, not to people overseas, at overseas conferences,” Morrison told Channel Nine on Tuesday.
“It’s an important conference, but the people I need to talk to most about our plan to reduce emissions and transition our economy over the next 30 years is to Australians, people in the Hunter Valley, people up there in Queensland, people in Victoria, in the west.”
In a separate interview, Morrison said the government would definitely be represented at the Glasgow summit at “a very senior level”, and suggested he needed to remain in Australia to manage the reopening of the country, which is forecast when vaccination rates reach 80%.
“At that time of year, we’ll be dealing with opening up, issues around Covid, international travel starting, bringing people home, students. There’ll be a lot on here,” Morrison told 4BC radio.
The UK’s high commissioner to Austalia, Vicki Treadell, has said the UK would be “very disappointed” if Morrison did not attend the summit.
The government is still negotiating its new climate change policy internally, with a crucial meeting with the Nationals later this month to thrash out the government’s commitment to a net-zero by 2050 target.
It has previously committed to updating both its long-term and 2030 emissions reduction targets of 26-28% cut on 2005 levels, which Australia agreed to six years ago under the Paris agreement.
The target has been widely criticised as not consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement, which aimed to to hold global heating to below 2C, with an aspiration not to breach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Liberal MPs in metropolitan seats are pushing for both a net zero by 2050 target and a roadmap to reach it that would outline shorter-term milestones, but face resistance from a clutch of Nationals MPs, mostly from Queensland, who are firmly against the net zero target.
Adding to the pressure on the federal Coalition, the New South Wales government last week agreed to a new target to cut emissions from 35% to 50% compared with 2005 levels by 2030.
Morrison said difficult decisions were needed, and he was attempting to bring the government together on a plan to reduce emissions and transition to a new economy, “which is coming”.
“We can’t avoid these difficult questions, and it does require a lot of debate internally to work it through together,” Morrison said.
“Our plan will set out how we’ll get there, not just why we’ll get there and when we get there, it’s the how that matters, because it’s the how that determines what the costs are, how we protect jobs, how we ensure that the Australian economy remains strong into the future,” he said.
“I want to keep those jobs in rural and regional Australia. We’re going to get there through technology, not higher taxes. That can absolutely be achieved and we can do the right thing by future generations.”