Australia tried to scrap climate reference

·3-min read

Australia sought to scrap from a key United Nations environment document a reference to limiting global warming to 1.5C while holding out on stronger 2030 emissions cuts.

The Morrison government wanted to remove from the draft UNESCO document about world heritage site protection a reference to "limiting global warming to 1.5C, with no or limited overshoot".

It instead wanted to replace it with a general statement about consistency with "commitments to implement the Paris Agreement".

UNESCO recommended Australia's proposal to scrap the 1.5C reference be disregarded.

The body reiterated it was important for countries to undertake the most ambitious approach to the Paris goals.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley noted Australia did not oppose another direct reference earlier in the text to climate risks being greater at warming of 2C compared with 1.5C.

"Our approach with the two amendments we proposed to this paragraph was to ensure that the policy document was fully aligned to the Paris Agreement," a ministerial spokesman said.

Yet-to-be-released modelling underpinning Australia's target of net zero emissions by 2050 assumes warming of 2C above pre-industrial levels.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison copped heavy criticism for declining to make the modelling public ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

He insisted it would be released before federal parliament returns on November 22.

It came as the United States and China agreed at COP26 to increase cooperation to tackle climate change including phasing out coal consumption.

The government maintained emissions-heavy industries would remain a key pillar of its economy even with its 2050 emissions target.

Trade Minister Dan Tehan played up Australia's plans to invest in hydrogen and agreements with developing nations for lower emissions technologies.

"If China is going to look to replace its imports of coal over time then they're going to need new energy alternatives to be able to replace that with, and we want to be part of that picture," he told ABC radio.

A draft decision at Glasgow urged nations that had failed to pledge stronger 2030 emissions cuts, including Australia, do so by the end of 2022.

Australia declined to lift its existing target of a 26-28 per cent reduction this decade, instead relying on updated projections of a 30-35 per cent cut.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor insisted Australia was "an active and constructive participant in the negotiations to ensure a positive outcome for COP26".

The coalition proposed a $1 billion fund to be administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for investment in controversial carbon capture and storage technology.

It needs crossbencher support for the laws to overturn a current prohibition on CEFC investment in carbon capture and storage.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, yet to release Labor's 2030 emissions target, stressed the world expected more from Australia on climate.

"If you're going to challenge the major issues confronting Australia and take up the opportunities, you need a government that can have consistency of policy," he told reporters in Sydney.

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