Liberal MP Dave Sharma urges government to back more ambitious 2035 emissions reduction target

The Liberal backbencher has conceded he doesn't "underestimate" the political difficulty around trying to gain support for a more ambitious medium-term target.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma is calling on the government to update its medium term emissions target.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma is calling on the government to update its medium term emissions target. Source: AAP

Liberal MP Dave Sharma has backed Australia committing to an emissions reduction target of 40 to 45 per cent by 2035 to secure the nation’s net zero future.

The push for the Australian government to adopt the more ambitious target comes ahead of a crucial UN climate summit in Glasgow in November.

Mr Sharma made the policy intervention during a virtual speech to the University of NSW Energy Institute on Tuesday.

“When it comes to our climate and energy policies, the positions we adopted in 2015 no longer reflect our national circumstances of 2021,” Mr Sharma said.

“To be credible, we need a firm target and accompanying plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”

Mr Sharma said the world had changed since 2015 when former prime minister Tony Abbott committed to lowering emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. 

He noted this included the release of the latest IPCC report’s stark warning about the link between human activity and the climate warming at an “alarming rate”.

The report outlined how extreme weather events are already becoming more common and the world's transition towards net zero needs to occur at a faster rate. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated his government wants Australia to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible and preferably by 2050.

But the Coalition is yet to update its 2030 target introduced as part of the Paris Climate Agreement, despite other partners such as the United States and UK revising their medium-term targets.

Mr Sharma, who represents the eastern Sydney seat of Wentworth, said there was a strong case for Australia to update its 2030 target “particularly as we’re likely to overachieve it”.

He has also gone further to say the policy approach beyond 2030 needs to adopt “significantly higher ambition”.

“A 2035 target of somewhere between 40 to 45 per cent below our 2005 levels is achievable on the technology available today and with the policy levers available today,” he said.

“That will put us on a managed transition pathway to net zero by 2050.”

There remains divided opinion within the Coalition about adopting a net zero emissions target by 2050, with resistance particularly coming from within the Nationals. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce has indicated that he and his party room won’t back the emissions target until the government can explain its cost and impact on regional Australia.

Mr Sharma said he recognised securing the pathway forward around the fractious climate policy debate in Australia remains politically difficult. 

He added that the concerns of some around the transition to a clean energy future should not be discounted.

"I don’t underestimate the political difficulties of this issue in Australia," he said.

“It's important that for us to have a sustainable and enduring policy that we make sure we take as much of the country with us on this journey."

But he believes Australia stands to hold a “comparative advantage” in a low-carbon world through its abundance of renewable energy sources and rare earth metals.

The "climate crisis" has been put on the agenda of Mr Morrison’s talks in Washington with US President Joe Biden and other leaders of the Quad - Japan and India - this week.

Mr Morrison has maintained that assessments of climate action should consider success in delivering existing targets rather than focus solely on the ambition of future goals.

But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Morrison needed to listen to Mr Biden's concerns around the need for more ambitious global action.

"The United States understands that there's a responsibility for major developed countries, like the US and Australia and the United Kingdom, to show leadership here," he told reporters.


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Published 21 September 2021 at 5:36pm, updated 21 September 2021 at 5:39pm
By Tom Stayner