CANBERRA, AAP – Australia has been labelled “a great disappointment to the rest of the world” for clinging to coal-fired power, potentially putting its trading partnerships in peril.
It declined to sign up to a commitment to cut methane emissions 30 per cent this decade or a separate agreement to phase out coal-fired power at the COP26 summit in Glasgow.
The chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, warned Australia’s laggard pace on the issue put its trading partnerships at risk.
“(It is) a great disappointment to the rest of the world that so good a country with so much history should have been so much behind on these issues,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“Already, the British-Australian trade deal is under huge pressure in this country because we don’t see why we should import things from Australia unless Australia meets the same standards.
“What was so disappointing for us was the way it appeared that your prime minister really doesn’t understand the urgency of what we have to do.”
Lord Deben thought Australia’s target for net zero emissions by 2050 lacked substance.
“When Scott Morrison tried to explain what he was going to do between now and 2030, it was just a whole series of words,” he said.
“You cannot go forward without signing up to eliminating coal.”
Mr Morrison refused to lift Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target because the Nationals wouldn’t support it.
Instead, the coalition is relying on updated projections of a 30 to 35 per cent cut this decade.
The prime minister also does not see any reason why new coal mines shouldn’t be approved.
“Provided they meet all the environmental regulations? I don’t see why not,” Mr Morrison told 2HD radio in Newcastle.
But he slapped down Resources Minister Keith Pitt’s earlier call for a federal fund to subsidise fossil fuel projects.
“There’s certainly no suggestion that they’d be any sort of taxpayers money to subsidise those things where there are commercially viable projects,” Mr Morrison said.
The Nationals extracted a series of concessions in exchange for the party’s support for a net zero target, including returning the resources minister to cabinet.
“We’ve said very clearly we are not closing coal mines and we’re not closing coal-fired power stations,” Mr Pitt said.
Other aspects of the Nationals’ agreement for net zero, including a future fund for rural Australia, haven’t been finalised.
“Patience is a virtue,” he said.
“These are agreements between the two leaders, they’ll work their way through the normal processes.”