CANBERRA, AAP – Australia’s climate change targets are back in the spotlight as US president Joe Biden gets to work.
Mr Biden has recommitted America to the Paris Agreement and formalised a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Australia has resisted setting the 2050 emissions reduction target, committing instead to achieving the goal in the second half of this century.
But Mr Biden’s swift climate action since taking office has left Australia increasingly isolated among its allies and trading partners.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham welcomed the US rejoining the Paris Agreement and pointed out Australia never left.
Senator Birmingham declined several opportunities to commit to a 2050 time frame.
“Australia is committed to net zero achieved and we want to see it happen as soon as possible by 2050 or even sooner,” he told the ABC on Friday.
“What we will do is work to get there as quickly as possible.”
Senator Birmingham argued the most pressing task was setting a clear path to achieving the goal.
“That’s the most crucial thing, is to know how we’re all going to get there and to develop those technologies, not taxes, to achieve it.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed committing to net zero emissions would have dire consequences.
“I hear people say zero emissions by 2050 would mean we need to close down the mining sector and close down agriculture,” he told the Nine Network.
“Now, I don’t think even the Labor Party wants that, the Greens might.
“But the government is going to put in place a policy which has us meeting our emissions commitments – emission reduction commitments – and making sure that industry survives.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said the Labor Party had committed to a policy of net zero emissions by 2050.
“That’s our position and that ought to be the government’s position,” he told Nine.