PM leaves door open to more ambitious climate targets04/22/2021
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has left the door open to lifting Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction targets following criticism from the United States ahead of an international summit where key trading partners will upgrade their climate commitments.
Asked if he would announce a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2030, Mr Morrison said it was “not our plan to do that” at the US Earth Day climate summit on Thursday night, but “what we do later in the year, we’ll address those at that point”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated Australia is considering near-term emissions reduction targets. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer
Mr Morrison said Australia was investing billions in low-emissions technology, which he expected would ramp up the rate of emissions reduction over time as industry adopted cleaner sources of power and production.
“The way technology works is there is a long lead time into its development and commercialisation and once the technology is in place, you can see a massive transformation,” he said.
The federal government announced on Thursday night a $100 million plan to boost the health of Australia’s marine environments, including investing $30 million in blue carbon projects that would tap marine vegetation to drive down Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
On Wednesday, it committed to more than $1 billion in funding for hydrogen and carbon sequestration projects, as well as funding for international research partnerships on low-carbon technologies such as green steel, small modular nuclear reactors and batteries.
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor also indicated Australia might be positioned to lift its mid-term targets later this year and flagged the release of a long-term emissions reduction strategy before the United Nations climate summit in November.
“We’re on track to not only meet our 2030 targets but beat them, we’ll be releasing our long-term strategy later in the year ahead of Glasgow,” Mr Taylor told Sky News on Thursday. “Our projections will be updated later in the year. Our long-term strategy will come out later on in the year and I’m confident, based on past experience, that they will be positive and we’ll continue to improve our position.”
The US is set to announce a doubling of its 2030 emissions reduction target at President Biden’s Earth Day summit, where he will host 40 world leaders on Thursday.
The former Trump administration withdrew the US from the Paris agreement and ended the country’s efforts to tackle climate change. Mr Biden is spruiking his country’s return to the Paris agreement by committing to increase the US emissions reduction target from 26 to 28 per cent on 1990 levels by 2025, to 50 per cent by 2030.
An unnamed senior Biden administration official told this masthead on Wednesday it was looking to Australia to increase its near-term targets.
“I think our colleagues in Australia recognise there is going to have to be a shift,” they said. “It’s insufficient to follow the existing trajectory and hope that they will be on a course to deep decarbonisation and getting to net-zero emissions by mid-century.”
Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 26 to 28 per cent, based on 2005 levels, is at the lower end of ambition for rich nations and the country has not set a deadline to reach net-zero emissions. The Prime Minister has argued Australia can comply with the Paris agreement by reaching net-zero in the second half of the century.
But Australia’s focus on technology development contrasts with the increasingly ambitious 2030 emissions targets set by other developed nations.
The UK will cut its carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 based on 1990 levels – upping its ambition from its current target of 68 per cent by 2030. Japan is expected to raise its 2030 target to at least a 40 per cent cut on 2013 levels, while Canada has committed to cut emissions over the same period by 36 per cent below 2005 levels and is set to announce deeper cuts at the Biden summit.
Blue carbon refers to greenhouse gases that are captured by marine vegetation such as mangroves forests, tidal marshes and seagrasses. The government will invest $19 million in four projects restoring coastal ecosystems, $10 million to assist projects with developing countries in our region and $1 million for natural capital accounting.
“The investment will see effective action that provides direct benefits to Australians through growth in the tourism, research and fisheries sectors, as well as deliver significant environmental outcomes,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said.
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