CANBERRA, AAP – Former prime minister Tony Abbott says Scott Morrison should go to the election promising nuclear power as a major point of difference to Labor.
Mr Abbott’s comments came as Mr Morrison flew to Rome for this weekend’s G20 summit before attending the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow on Monday.
The Morrison government’s technology roadmap – which forms the basis of its net-zero by 2050 emissions policy – includes the prospect of small modular nuclear reactors in the future.
But Australian law currently bans nuclear power and polls show Australians remain concerned about its safety.
Mr Abbott said the fact the Morrison government planned to build nuclear-powered submarines “does in logic open the door over time to Australia developing a civil nuclear industry”.
“It doesn’t seem right to say yes to nuclear power at sea but not on land,” he told The Daily Telegraph Bush Summit.
He said there were not many points of policy difference between the coalition and Labor, and “there is going to have to be something that the two parties are arguing about at the next election”.
“If we were to say over time we are going to move to a civil nuclear industry in Australia, that would be a way of sharpening the difference between the Liberal-National coalition and the Labor opposition, and that might not be a bad thing.”
The government revealed on Friday that alongside its emissions commitments it would also present to COP26 a National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said a National Adaptation Policy Office would coordinate advice across industry and governments, from the way Australia built houses and planted trees in urban environments, to commercial building design and environment restoration programs.
“Successful adaptation will help ensure that buildings, infrastructure, ecosystems, our communities and our economy are resilient to the impacts of climate change,” she said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Australia’s net-zero pledge was a “significant step forward”.
“We’re walking the talk when it comes to reducing our emissions, and the prime minister will spell that out in Glasgow,” he told Sky News on Friday.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese warned global leaders would have long memories of Australia’s climate change policies ahead of the Glasgow summit.
In an interview with AAP, Mr Albanese said the delay in signing up to the mid-century goal could have ramifications for international relations.
“People on the global stage – they’re not goldfish. They have memories,” he said.
“We have a prime minister who has opposed renewable energy targets, who opposed net zero by 2050, who has ridiculed electric vehicles. They see that and mark Australia down.”
Labor insists it is waiting to see what comes from the Glasgow conference before releasing its climate targets.
The government has released projections showing Australia will reduce emissions by 30 to 35 per cent by 2030 on 2005 levels.
But it is refusing to lift its 26 to 28 per cent end-of-decade target, despite other countries pledging to improve on their 2030 ambitions.