‘This is real’: PM touts official plan against climate ‘threats’

  • Australia will commit to net zero by 2050

  • Low emissions technologies will be central to the government's plan

  • 62,000 jobs will be created in regional mining and heavy industry

Australia will commit to net zero emissions by 2050, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed today.

The announcement follows mounting global pressure from the United States and United Kingdom ahead of the United Nations COP26 global climate talks in Glasgow next week.

While Prime Minister Morrison agreed to attend COP26 after months of delay, he had faced the prospect of meeting his peers without a commitment to the 2050 target.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Source: ABC News
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Source: ABC News

Today’s landmark announcement is viewed as a major shift in government policy for the Coalition. It had been stalled by the Liberal’s junior partner the Nationals, who finally agreed to support the target on Sunday night.

"This is real, it's happening, we understand it and we recognise it," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

"We need to protect against the threats [of climate change]," he said, also referring to trade policies adopted by other countries to punish big emitters.

"We also need to realise the opportunities that indeed help mitigate those threats and enable Australia to succeed."

How Australia plans to reach net zero by 2050

Over $20 billion will be invested in "low-emissions technologies" by 2030, with the government also forecasting the creation of 62,000 jobs in mining and heavy industry.

"Ultra-low-cost" solar is one of the low emissions technologies the Prime Minister announced will be key to the plan.

Critics were quick to point out the plan is reliant on highly optimistic projections for the role of future technologies – something Mr Morrison said was simply "a given".

Mr Morrison confirmed Australia is on track to see emissions fall by 30 to 35 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, but has refused to change the country's formal target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction, despite immense international pressure.

Government plan in brief

While the government has not revealed the modelling underpinning the plan, it is clear they are predicting future technology developments will be key to achieving their targets but details are still scarce.

  • Government is now projecting an emissions cut of 30 to 35 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, but will stick with the target of 26 to 28 per cent.

  • Existing technologies will get Australia 85 per cent of the way there, and emerging technologies will close the gap to get to net-zero by 2050.

  • Main policy levers include investment in technology, incentives and offsets (including soil carbon, land sequestration, carbon capture and storage and offsets from the Indo-Pacific region).

  • At least $20 billion will be invested in low-emissions technology by 2030.

  • Productivity Commission will monitor the socio-economic impact every five years.

  • Gross national income is expected to be 1.6 per cent higher to 2050.

  • Government is promising it will not raise the cost of electricity or put industries, regions or jobs at risk.

'Fair and responsible' plan to tackle climate change

Mr Morrison said the offical target to meet net-zero by 2050 will "get the balance right" and combat the issue in a "uniquely Australian way".

Describing the plan as "fair" and "responsible" he said his "carefully put together" plan will work with Australians to reach the goal rather than mandate it.

It will not be a "revolution, but a careful evolution" that will not cost jobs in farming, mining or the gas sector, nor will it see energy prices increase, it said.

Prime Minister Morrison said the plan will put Australia in a stronger position globally, with industry minister Angus Taylor saying it will put the country on a "practically achievable pathway" to net-zero by 2050.

Opposition lashes new announcement as a 'vibe' not a plan

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said today's announcement is more of a "vibe" rather than a plan.

"It's not a plan no matter how may times you say it, or what font it's printed in," he said.

"By their own admission, there is nothing new in it. So what was all the fuss about then?

"It was really about nothing today."

Similar criticism was heard out of the Canberra press gallery, with the lack of detail shared by the Prime Minister today questioned.

'Scam not a plan': Critics slam government's climate plan

Independent renewable energy advocate Smart Energy Council slammed today's announcement, with its CEO John Grimes accusing the government of relying on "carbon accounting" and "technologies that are not even invented".

Mr Grimes said the plan an "absolute travesty" given that solutions to the climate crisis already exist.

"This is a scam it's not a plan," he told Yahoo News.

"The Prime Minister has said that the Federal Government is just going to turbo charge what they've been doing so far and just do more of that.

"What they've been doing so far has been putting roadblocks at every opportunity to the uptake smart renewable energy, electric vehicles and renewable hydrogen."

Australia ranked last in climate report

Environmental advocates Climate Council responded to the plan by saying it was "long overdue".

Last week they ranked Australia "dead last" in the world over its efforts to combat climate change.

Australia remains a major exporter of fossil fuels. Source: Getty
Australia remains a major exporter of fossil fuels. Source: Getty

Climate Council spokesperson and Australian National University Professor Will Steffen said the government must now take "rapid and concrete steps to cut emissions deeply this decade" and urged them to refrain from approving new coal projects.

"All gas and coal expansion must stop, and we need to move away from existing fossil fuel use as quickly as possible," he said.

"Any climate commitment should be judged against this measure."

How key environment groups reacted to the plan:

  • "Let’s be clear: there is still no credible plan. What we saw today from Morrison was effectively just another fig leaf for inaction," Greenpeace CEO David Ritter.

  • "The Prime Minister has so far announced a plan to have a plan. It is short-changing Australians by refusing to join other nations in at least halving emissions by 2030," Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.

  • "While the 2050 net-zero emissions target is welcome, it appears the plan is a missed opportunity to use existing policies as a springboard to a technology and market investment approach that would have business not the taxpayer as the main driver of the plan”, said Carbon Market Institute CEO John Connor.

Announcement follows 'code red for humanity' warning

Combatting climate change this decade is seen as key to fighting the effects of global heating and limiting global warming to below 2 degrees.

Concern has been growing around the world following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) release of a landmark report in August predicting unprecedented sea level rises, more intense droughts, heatwaves, fires and floods.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned the report indicated it was "code red for humanity” and urged all leaders of G20 nations to commit to slowing down and reversing the effects of net zero before COP26.

With AAP

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