Climate groups take aim at Dutton call to scrap target

A coalition pledge to remain committed to the Paris Agreement while indicating it will scrap Australia's legally binding climate targets has been slammed as a "rolling disaster".

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he would dump Australia's 2030 target to cut emissions by 43 per cent from 2005 levels, should the coalition win the next federal election.

Under the Paris Agreement, members must increase their emissions targets every five years and cannot water them down.

It commits countries to taking measures that limit global temperature rises to 1.5C and to keep them below 2C.

Peter Dutton
Peter Dutton says he'll scrap the 2030 target to cut emissions by 43 per cent from 2005 levels. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

Opposition communications spokesman David Coleman dodged questions on whether the coalition would have a 2030 target.

"We're committed to the Paris Agreement," he told ABC's Insiders on Sunday.

"We're committed to net-zero by 2050 and we'll have more to say about targets well in advance of the election."

Climate groups warn going back on Australia's targets could hamper investment as the nation transitions to a cleaner economy.

Such a move could risk Australia's membership of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen described the coalition's explanation of its policy as a "rolling disaster".

"The fact of the matter is the Paris accord is crystal clear, there can be no backsliding," he said.

"If you reduce your target, then you're in breach of the Paris accord."

Mr Bowen said forecasts released in December showed Australia on track for a 42 per cent emissions reduction, just short of the 43 per cent target.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen
Reducing the 2030 target would breach the Paris climate agreement, Energy Minister Chris Bowen says. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

The coalition is proposing to introduce nuclear energy as the pathway to reducing emissions.

The first nuclear plants would not be achieved until 2040 at the earliest, the CSIRO reported in May.

Australia's ban on nuclear power would also have to be overturned in a lengthy process.

Nuclear reactors in the country would contribute to worse climate outcomes, according to Solutions for Climate Australia.

"Nuclear is a worrying distraction from getting on with the urgent job at hand: replacing polluting coal and gas with the sun and wind technology we have right now," the group's senior campaigner Elly Baxter said.

The Paris Agreement and its emissions targets had mobilised billions of dollars towards new clean and job-creating industries, Investor Group on Climate Change managing director Erwin Jackson said.

"Back-flipping on these commitments and withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would corrode investor confidence at a time when Australia is competing for funding for new technologies and clean industries, local jobs and training opportunities," he said.