CANBERRA, Australia – Australia, long under fire as one of the world’s largest coal and gas producers, said Tuesday that it would aim for net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but added that it would not legislate the target and relying instead on consumers and businesses will drive emissions reductions.
The passing of the target will mitigate international criticism after Australia previously refused to join countries to meet the target ahead of the United Nations COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, October 31 to November 12.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia, one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita, will meet the target largely through technology developmentwith the government investing A $ 20 billion ($ 15 billion).
The investment will lower the cost of technologies like clean hydrogen and increase their use, he said.
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Morrison was in a political bind because of climate change. He needs the support of rural voters who oppose cutting emissions as he goes to an election due by May, but much of the wider Australian population wants the government to do more.
A high-profile poll on Monday showed that Morrison is on the way to losing to the center-left Labor Party.
On Tuesday, Morrison tried to downplay any threat to domestic industries and jobs by reducing emissions.
“Australians want action against climate change. They take action against climate change, but they also want to protect their jobs and livelihoods. They also want to keep the cost of living down, ”he told reporters in Canberra.
“I also want to protect the Australian way of life, especially in rural and regional areas. The Australian way of life is unique. “
Morrison said Australia would not step up its 2030 target of 26 to 28 percent cut emissions from 2005 levels. But he added that the country is apparently well on its way to surpass that target and cut emissions by 30 to 35 percent anyway.
Critics said Morrison’s plan was too weak to prepare the Australian economy for a rapidly developing world.
“If the government doesn’t set the course to cut our emissions in half by 2030, it will make climate change worse and turn its back on opportunities,” said Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
“Australia cannot continue to rely on coal and gas exports because these industries are on the decline and if these workers are not helped with the transition they will be left on dry land.”
Morrison struggled to get support for the net-zero goal from his coalition government’s junior partner, the National Party, which has a regional power base that depends on agriculture and mining.
However, the party said on Sunday that it would support a net-zero goal. According to the Australian Financial Review, the deal includes an agreement to increase spending on regional infrastructure and tax breaks for income from carbon farming.