PM resists pressure to increase emissions cuts, plugs big miners and industry

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has addressed a global climate summit without committing the country to more ambitious emissions targets.

Mr Morrison’s appearance came after the US’s headline pledge to reduce 2005 emissions by up to 52 per cent by 2030 and President Joe Biden’s call for other countries to act more strongly.

The Prime Minister’s speech also came after Canada increased its commitment to a 40 to 50 per cent cut from 2005 emissions by 2030, Brazil’s pledge of climate neutrality by 2050, and others.

READ MORE: US president opens with ambitious new climate pledge

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech was plagued by audio problems

Australia’s current target is to cut emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, a goal reportedly described as “insufficient” by the Biden administration on Thursday.


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In a short speech, the start of which was impacted by audio issues, Mr Morrison again avoided putting a timeframe on the nation’s “pathway to net-zero” or pledge deeper emissions cuts by 2030.

Instead, he insisted Australia was on its way to meeting its Paris commitments, plugged the nation’s world-leading rooftop solar uptake, and pushed a technology- and industry-led approach to combating climate change.

That included “world-class pioneering Australian companies” such as mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue Metals, including its former CEO, Andrew Forrest.

“For Australia, it is not a question of if, or even by when for net-zero, but importantly how,” he said, speaking close to midnight AEST.

“That is why we’re investing in priority new technology solutions through our technology investment roadmap initiative.”

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READ MORE: Australia pledges tech investment ahead of Biden’s climate summit

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President Joe Biden speaks to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate from the East Room of the White House.

Mr Morrison spoke of wanting to produce the “cheapest clean hydrogen in the world” for $2/kg before directly addressing Mr Biden to compare Silicon Valley with Australia’s planned “hydrogen valleys”.

The UN Secretary-General had earlier called for a price on carbon, an end to subsidies for fossil fuel, and the phasing out of coal by 2030 in the wealthiest countries and 2040 everywhere else.

Mr Biden said the US couldn’t act alone and called for all countries to act at “a moment of peril but a moment of opportunity.”

“No nation can solve this crisis on our own, as I know you all fully understand,” he said.

“All of us, all of us and particularly those of us who represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up.”

Nine newspapers reported that senior Biden administration officials said Australia could not rely solely on technology to get to net zero emissions by 2050.

“At the moment I think our colleagues in Australia recognise there is going to have to be a shift,” the senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, reportedly said during a briefing call.

“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.”

Earlier this week, Mr Morrison pledged more than $1 billion towards hubs for carbon capture and hydrogen technologies and a plan to drive foreign investment in Australian climate tech projects.

“You can always be sure that the commitments Australia makes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are bankable,” he said.

“We have proven performance, transparent emissions accounting and transformative technology targets to unlock pathways to net zero. 

“Future generations, my colleagues and excellencies, will thank us not for what we have promised, but what we deliver. 

“And on that score, Australia can always be relied upon.”

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