Scott Morrison talks climate change, China and COVID-19 in first call with Joe Biden as US president

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken to Joe Biden for the first time since he became US president, describing the conversation as warm and engaging.


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison / US President Joe Biden. Source: AAP, AP

Australia's refusal to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 has not featured in the first leaders' call between Scott Morrison and Joe Biden.

But the prime minister did discuss action to combat climate change with the US president during Thursday's phone conversation.

"They're very focused on the big challenge here, which is the technologies which transform our economies, so you maintain and build on jobs, support your industries," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

"So people have that future to look forward to and address the broader global climate challenge."

Mr Biden is expected to invite the prime minister to join a climate summit on 22 April when the US is likely to beef up its emissions targets.

Mr Morrison said he spoke about Australia's existing climate change targets and the strong take-up of solar panels in Australia.

But he said Mr Biden did not press him to adopt more ambitious commitments on climate action. 

"We had a very positive discussion about the path we're on, and the commitments that we've made," Mr Morrison said.

"And also what we've achieved in terms of our emissions reductions since 2005, which indeed is higher than what has been achieved in the United States, and almost double that of the OECD."

Coronavirus response was also discussed.

Mr Morrison described the tone of his conversation with the president as as warm and engaging.

"He sees the Australia-US relationship as providing the anchor for peace and security in our region," the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.

"We share that view. In terms of our relations between Australia and the United States, there's nothing to fix there, only things to build on."

The prime minister invited the president to visit Australia for the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty later in the year.

Mr Morrison expects the US position on China to remain relatively stable.

"In the United States, Australia has, and remains to have, a very, very strong and effective partner on these issues of Indo-Pacific security," he said.

The White House has also released a readout of the call, referring to the alliance as an anchor of stability in the Indo-Pacific and the world.

"They discussed how we can work together to address global and regional challenges, including dealing with China, beating the COVID-19 pandemic, and combating climate change," the statement says.

"They also agreed to work together, alongside other allies and partners, to hold to account those responsible for the coup in Burma.

"The leaders affirmed their commitment to working together to advance our shared values, global security and prosperity."

3 min read
Published 4 February 2021 at 2:42pm
Source: AAP, SBS