Regional Australia won't carry climate action 'burden': Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.Picture: Keegan Carroll
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.Picture: Keegan Carroll

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says regional Australia won't be left to "carry the national burden" of reducing carbon emissions as he brushed off fresh calls to urgently lift the country's climate action targets.

Mr Morrison remains adamant that technological advancements - not taxes on emitters - will allow Australia to cut emissions without destroying jobs or industries, particularly in regional areas.

It comes as one of his government backbenchers launched a new bid to add nuclear power to the nation's energy mix, proposing changes to federal environmental laws which would allow power plants to be approved.

The Coalition has been placed under renewed pressure to adjust its ambitions after the world's climate scientists this week warned the Paris targets could be "beyond reach" without immediate, rapid and large-scale cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Labor and the Greens have leapt on the findings of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report - described as a "code red for humanity" by the UN Secretary-General - to demand the Morrison government set higher targets.

The opposition wants the government to match its commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050, while the Greens want a more ambitious 2030 target and a promise that no new coal, oil or gas projects will be approved.

While Mr Morrison signalled that the government's projections would be updated ahead of the crunch Glasgow climate summit in November, he made clear his government would lean on technology such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage to reach its goal of achieving net zero "as soon as possible, preferably by 2050".

Mr Morrison on Tuesday declared "technology changes everything", holding it up as the key to bringing down emissions globally, particularly in the developing world. He warned that unless those changes occurred, the IPCC's dire warnings would eventuate.

Indi MP Helen Haines. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Indi MP Helen Haines. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"We need the technological changes that will transform the global energy economy of the world. It's not good enough for it to just happen to Australia and the United States and in Europe," he told reporters at Parliament House.

"It must happen in these other countries, and they must have prosperity. Otherwise, we will not fix this."

Mr Morrison claimed the Coalition's technology-centric approach would mean that regional communities - where the nation's farmer and coal miners live and work - would not lose out from the transition to net zero.

"Regional communities should not be forced to carry the national burden, and I won't let them. I will ensure that we have a plan that addresses the need for jobs and industries that can be supported by new energy technologies, both now and into the future," he said.

Independent MP Helen Haines, whose electorate of Indi covers much of north-east Victoria, said floods, drought and bushfires were proof that regional communities were already shouldering the burden of climate change.

She used question time to press Mr Morrison on why he wouldn't "show leadership" and commit to net zero by 2050.

Mr Morrison agreed the impacts of climate change were felt most in regional areas.

"But that doesn't mean they should shoulder the economic burden of that greater than other parts of the country," he said.

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In a speech to a virtual climate summit, Labor's Chris Bowen claimed Mr Morrison would ignore the IPCC's warnings in the same fashion he ignored warnings for fire chiefs ahead of the deadly Black Summer blazes.

"His government is so divided and dysfunctional on the key question of climate policy that he cannot even commit his government to the essential starting point: net zero by 2050," he said.

Meanwhile, Country Liberal senator Sam McMahon on Tuesday announced she would introduce legislation to amend federal environmental laws to allow for nuclear power plants to be built in Australia.

The amendments would remove rules which prevent the minister from approving "construction or operation of a nuclear power plant, a reprocessing facility, an enrichment plant, or a nuclear fuel fabrication plant".

"We are looking down the barrel of a crisis, a crisis of energy," Senator McMahon said.

"While some choose to avoid addressing this issue, I choose to hear the voice of the quiet Australians and rise to meet the challenge of resolving this energy issue head on."

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This story Regional communities won't carry climate action 'burden': Morrison first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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