Climate goals in spotlight after Biden win

Daniel McCulloch
·3-min read

Australia's climate change targets are back in the spotlight after Joe Biden won the US presidential election.

Mr Biden has promised to recommit to the Paris Agreement and pursue a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to set such a timeline, leaving Australia increasingly exposed among its major trading partners.

"Australia will always set its policies based on Australia's national interests," he told reporters on Monday.

"The United States will make their decisions based on their interests and their capabilities and how their economy is structured, and we'll do the same."

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham deflected a series of questions about the president-elect setting a net zero target.

Senator Birmingham focused instead on the US rejoining the Paris Agreement, which Australia has signed on to.

He also shifted the conversation to investing in emission reduction technologies, which underpins the government's climate change policies.

"We look forward to the United States taking a complementary approach in investing similarly in terms of emissions reductions policies," Senator Birmingham told the ABC.

"Australia has reduced emissions by a greater rate since 2005 than the OECD, on average, (and) by a greater rate than the United States.

"What we want to see is that the rest of the world achieves the same type of success as we have in building a strong trajectory, but to get us to the point of net zero as soon as possible."

The Paris Agreement commits all members to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of the century.

But countries are setting more ambitious targets ahead of a major climate change conference in Glasgow next year.

Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom have adopted the emissions target by 2050, while China has set a deadline of 2060.

Labor frontbencher Penny Wong is keen to focus on the widening chasm on carbon neutrality, with Australia the odd one out.

"It's a great moment for America and a great moment for the world to see a new administration elected with a very substantial climate agenda - one that really does isolate Scott Morrison," she told the ABC.

Mr Morrison has invited Mr Biden to visit Australia next year for the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty.

He is also keen to work with the president-elect on tackling the health and economic impacts of coronavirus.

The US has reached another grim milestone, surpassing 10 million cases of coronavirus.

Mr Biden is assembling a team of scientists and experts to inform his administration's approach to the pandemic.

He has been declared president by major US media networks but Donald Trump has refused to concede defeat.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce congratulated Mr Biden but warned he would need to win over many millions of Trump supporters.

"Remember Biden had the largest popular vote in American history, but the second largest was Trump," Mr Joyce told the Seven Network.

"There was a massive number of people who voted for Trump and he needs to keep them on board."

Mr Biden has received more than 75 million votes, while Mr Trump has received almost 71 million.