CANBERRA, AAP – Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce insists the Nationals will not rush a decision on backing a plan to cut carbon emissions with some MPs still unconvinced.
A four-hour partyroom meeting on Sunday failed to yield an agreement from the junior coalition partner to back the government’s net zero by 2050 plan.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under intense pressure to take the climate action commitment to a major conference in Glasgow, which starts in two weeks.
Mr Joyce said some of his Nationals colleagues had unanswered questions about the cost of stronger emissions reduction targets on regional economies.
“This is not something that is going to happen in a great rush. We’re going to make sure it’s a diligent process,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
“We’ll let people ask for what they think if they wish to go forward, what is reasonable to make sure they get proper protection for regional economies.”
Some reports suggested the Nationals were asking for a regional assistance package of up to $20 billion in return for supporting a net zero goal.
But Mr Joyce downplayed the price tag.
“I’ve heard numbers but I don’t know where these numbers come from,” he said.
“It’s not about a number it’s about an outcome.”
Energy Minister Angus Taylor briefed the Nationals meeting and will now present the plan to Liberals on Monday before a joint coalition meeting on Tuesday.
The Nationals will also meet again on Monday.
Mr Taylor described talks as constructive and collegiate with a focus on regions, traditional industries and the jobs and communities that rely on them.
“There was a strong joint commitment to policies that strengthen our regions, not weaken them,” he said.
“It was also clear that there was absolutely no appetite for policies that impact jobs or add to the cost of living through an explicit carbon tax or a sneaky carbon tax.”
Mr Joyce said Australia’s policies would have no effect on the climate and needed to be considered as part of global action.
“But it’ll have a massive effect on regional economies over the medium to long term if the predictions are right,” he said.
The Nationals leader is adamant the party “won’t be told anything” but is hopeful climate policy will not split the coalition.
Some MPs and senators have vowed to oppose any net zero 2050 target.
Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud said three or four people being staunchly opposed wouldn’t stop the party from reaching a resolution provided it protected regional Australia.
Mr Joyce has also effectively vetoed raising the government’s medium-range target, which is set at reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
The government will likely unveil projections showing the 2030 target will be easily beaten, potentially achieving a 40 per cent cut in that period as more renewable energy comes on stream.