Nationals back 2050 target but conditions remain opaque

By Jackson Graham

October 25, 2021

Federal Nationals Party Bridget McKenzie, Kevin Hogan, Barnaby Joyce, Keith Pitt and David Littleproud,
Federal Nationals Party Bridget McKenzie, Kevin Hogan, Barnaby Joyce, Keith Pitt and David Littleproud, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2012. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Nationals will support a target for Australia to reach net-zero by 2050, after a week of wrangling over the policy. 

But party leader and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has refused to say what the Nationals got in return for backing the target. 

The support comes just days before prime minister Scott Morrison is due to travel to Europe ahead of the United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow in November. 

Joyce said the agreement was “in principle” and conditional on cabinet endorsing the commitments that Morrison and Joyce had agreed to. 

“The details of that negotiated settlement will remain private,” he said. 

Joyce and some of his colleagues had expressed scepticism about firming up Australia’s climate target due to its potential impact on regional Australia, but on Sunday said the party had a better chance of influencing decisions if it wasn’t sidelined. 

“There is no way we can deal with any of those if we are outside the tent,” he said. 

Conditions for the Nationals’ commitment could include a transition package and an additional cabinet position for the party. 

According to The Conversation, this could be resources minister Keith Pitt, who has been a strong critic of rushing to endorse the 2050 target. 

Joyce on Sunday refused to respond to questions about any cabinet position, stating a decision “like that” would be for the prime minister. 

The Australia Institute points out the likely budgetary costs  of persuading the Nationals to agree to the plan are less than the costs of inaction. 

“According to modelling conducted by Deloitte Access Economics, a 46 percent emissions reduction target for 2030 would lead to more investment, more jobs, lower electricity prices and more than $210 billion with of economic benefits,” the institute’s chief economist Richard Denniss said. 

Nationals MP Darren Chester said on Monday morning that for him the decision boiled down to a need to represent diversity in regional Australia. 

“We have to represent the great diversity of regional communities, not just one or two sections of it,” Chester told ABC radio. 

Chester, MP for Gippsland in Victoria, where an energy transition is underway in the Latrobe Valley, said transitions had been “too fast” in his electorate but the 2050 target allowed time for preparation to avoid job losses.  

“This is a long term process; we are talking about the best of 30 years here. I see us reimagining, redesigning regional communities,” he said. 

Morrison has welcomed the transition and says there will now be final consideration and determination for the cabinet.


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