Morrison says reaching net zero emissions by 2050 preferable, but doesn’t commit to target

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday February 2, 2021

(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the government hopes to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but has once again refused to commit to the target, despite international pressure to do so.

In an address to the National Press Club on Monday, Morrison reaffirmed his government’s plan for Australia to lower its emissions by “investing and partnering in technology breakthroughs”.

“Our goal is to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050. But when we get there, whether in Australia, or anywhere else, that will depend on the advances made in science and technology needed to commercially transform not just advanced economies and countries, but the developing world as well,” he said.

The Morrison government has faced increased pressure to follow the lead of the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea, Europe, New Zealand, and, with the inauguration of Joe Biden, the United States, in committing to the 2050 target.

When asked whether he would be willing to commit to the 2050 target by the time Australia heads to the Glasgow climate change conference later this year, Morrison said:

“When I can tell you how we get there, that’s when I’ll tell you when we’re going to get there.”

A key aspect of Australia’s plan to reduce emissions is the technology investment roadmap, which aims to develop “clean energy technologies”, such as hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and low carbon materials such as steel.

Morrison said the plan “gets going” this year, and noted that the government has begun pursuing “ambitious partnerships” with countries like Japan, the US, the UK, Korea, and Singapore.

Read more: The Briefing: how the Morrison government plans to allow the CEFC, and potentially ARENA, to invest in gas

Labor MP Jim Chalmers said the PM, in his address, “missed the opportunity” to join the 120 countries, business communities, unions and other organisations that have committed to net zero commissions by 2050.

“For as long as this prime minister continues to play party room politics over cleaner and cheaper energy Australia will be denied those and opportunities and increasingly isolated in the international community,” he told a press conference.

Labor committed to net zero emissions by 2050 in February last year.

A recent report from the Climate Targets Panel found that to be consistent with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, Australia must reach net-zero emissions by 2035.

In his speech Morrison noted that Australia is facing harsher natural disasters, more often.

“While we have always contended with extreme weather, our new normal is increasing, and more severe droughts, floods, fires, and storms,” he said.

However, he did not acknowledge that the frequency and severity of natural disasters has been exacerbated by climate change.

Last week the Climate Council released a report which found that Australians are five times more likely to be displaced by a climate-fuelled disaster than someone living in Europe, while the risk is 100 times higher for those living in the Pacific.

The report also found that the cost of extreme weather disasters in Australia has more than doubled since the 1970s, reaching $35 billion for the decade 2010-2019.

Read more: APRA executive calls for Australia to increase investment in natural disaster mitigation


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