Scott Morrison accused of climate inaction as new poll shows support for stronger emissions targets

Labor says the government is ignoring a clear majority of Australians who - according to a new poll - support stronger action on emissions reduction.

Large crowds march during the The Global Strike 4 Climate rally Melbourne, Friday, September 20, 2019.

Large crowds march during the The Global Strike 4 Climate rally Melbourne, Friday, 20 September, 2019. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been accused of ignoring climate change concerns as a new poll shows the majority of Australians want more action on reducing emissions. 

Almost 70 per cent of Australians want the government to adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050, according to an Ipsos poll of 1,000 people that was released on Monday.

In an overnight speech to a side event at the G20 summit, Mr Morrison spruiked Australia’s commitment to meeting its goals under the Paris Climate Agreement.

“We've got great form on achieving our goals, what we've set we've met, and we've exceeded it,” Mr Morrison said.

The Morrison government's current goal is for a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

Mr Morrison used his speech to reiterate that Australia remained committed to "practical" pathways to reduce emissions. 

"This includes for the future further unlocking promising low emissions technologies, technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, green steel and aluminium," he said. 

"These can make massive inroads into reducing emissions, not just here in Australia, taking care of our commitments, but globally as well."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Scott Morrison used a G20 speech to talk up Australia's track record on emissions reduction. Source: AAP

Federal Labor argues that target is not ambitious enough - and are pushing for the government to adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050, similar to many other developed nations.

“Australian calls for climate action continue to fall on Scott Morrison’s deaf ears,” Labor spokesperson for climate change Mark Butler told SBS News.

“His government has now found itself completely isolated on the world stage. Over 70 per cent of our trading partners have a mid-century net zero emissions target,” he said.

“Every state and territory government, Labor and Liberal alike, have a target for net zero by 2050…Scott Morrison is standing in the way and Australians will be left paying the price."

Australia has faced international pressure over its intention to use Kyoto carryover credits in order to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement.

This involves claiming credit for exceeding emissions targets under the previous climate agreement.  

Mr Morrison said last week the government would only use “that carryover” to the extent it is required and his ambition is "we will not need them".

The Ipsos survey shows 69 per cent of respondents support a target of net zero emissions by 2050, with 54 per cent thinking Australia should transition to a carbon neutral economy as soon as possible.

Some 1,000 Australians were surveyed in January for the poll, with follow-up questions taking place last month.

Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor did not respond to questions about the Ipsos poll.

A poll by the Australia Institute in October found 79 per cent of Australians agreed that climate change was occurring and that 82 per cent worried it would lead to worse bushfires. 

Australian National University environmental policy expert Rebecca Colvin said polling around the issue of climate change consistently showed a majority of people supported stronger action.

“Climate change isn’t a controversial issue for most people in Australia, there is majority support for action, there is majority concern,” Dr Colvin told SBS News.

She said it was also interesting to note that concern for climate change continued to grow, even when people were preoccupied with other issues such as the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We feel the need to attend to the threats that are most pressing to us, but what this tells us is that although there is a shift in the prioritisation of climate change as an issue, there is a still a clear majority that see it as an issue and want to see more action taken."

Additional reporting by AAP. 

4 min read
Published 23 November 2020 at 4:01pm
By Jarni Blakkarly