Morrison flags climate policy 'evolution'

Paul Osborne
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SCOTT MORRISON PRESSER CANBERRA

The federal government must "evolve" its emissions targets, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says

Scott Morrison says he accepts climate change is driving longer, hotter and drier summer seasons and the government's emissions targets need to "evolve".

The prime minister has faced criticism for lacking ambition to cut Australia's emissions and a number of his coalition partyroom colleagues have downplayed the link between climate change and recent devastating bushfires.

Australia has pledged to cut emissions by 26 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, under the Paris Agreement.

"It is my intention to meet and beat that target," Mr Morrison told reporters on Sunday.

"We are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further and we are going to do it without a carbon tax, without putting up electricity prices and without shutting down traditional industries," he added in an ABC TV interview.

Asked whether he was open to moving the existing target, he said: "What I'm saying is 'we want to reduce emissions and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better and better at it'".

Mr Morrison acknowledged some within coalition ranks felt climate change had nothing to do with the bushfires. But it was the government's "uncontested" advice and position that climate change was impacting on longer, hotter, drier summer seasons.

Mr Morrison said one of the issues which should be explored by a royal commission into the bushfires, which he will put to cabinet and state premiers in coming weeks, would be the impact of climate change.

On Sunday, Guardian Australia published an article by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who argued the world must stop burning coal "if we are to avoid the worst consequences of global warming".

Mr Turnbull also urged his successor to reinstate the national energy guarantee policy and lift targets to cut emissions.

Mr Morrison stressed the government would "meet and beat" its emissions target and had implemented the "reliability" part of the NEG policy.

Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said it was a "good move" to include climate in the terms of reference for a royal commission.

"But Australia will have to do more to tackle coal and gas to have a credible climate policy on the international stage," he said.

"The coal and gas industry should begin to help pay the mounting costs of climate impacts, recovery and adaptation through the introduction of a climate disaster levy."

Mr Morrison has rejected the idea of a levy, arguing it would hurt the broader economy.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government did not have a climate policy to tweak, given its commitment to use Kyoto credits to achieve the emissions cut target.

"At the moment they have ... accounting tricks, rather than actually reducing emissions," Mr Albanese told reporters in Hobart.

"Good policy on climate change will create jobs, will lower emissions, and lower energy prices."