Environment

Net zero emissions won't be achieved in 'cafes and wine bars', Scott Morrison says

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said factories in regional Australia and scientific research will drive the country's plan to move to net zero emissions. Source: AAP

Scott Morrison has admitted Australia's energy mix has to change over the next 30 years, while highlighting a preference for a 2050 net zero emissions target.

Just days away from a global climate summit where Australia will join other major emitters, Scott Morrison has pledged to protect industry on the road to net zero, "preferably by 2050".

But the prime minister has admitted Australia's energy mix will have to change over the next 30 years to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

"We are going to meet our ambitions with the smartest minds, the best technology and the animal spirits of our business community," he told the Business Council on Monday night, spruiking gas and hydrogen.

"We're not going to achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities.

"It will be won in places like the Pilbara, the Hunter, Gladstone, Portland, Whyalla, Bell Bay, the Riverina. In the factories of our regional towns and outer suburbs."

But critics warn him against flirting with net zero targets and letting Australia lag behind on climate action.

"The federal government has been increasingly isolated on the world stage and this sort of net-zero lip service while propping up the gas industry will not cut it," Greenpeace spokeswoman Nelli Stevenson said on Tuesday.

Later this week, Mr Morrison will speak at a virtual climate summit hosted by US President Joe Biden.

America and China - the world's two biggest carbon polluters - have agreed to co-operate to curb climate change, leaving Australia increasingly isolated.

On the digital fringes, three days of global climate action will feature a summit with youth climate activists including Greta Thunberg, along with other events to demand more ambition.

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Meanwhile, Anthony Albanese is targeting the Morrison government's ability to handle a renewable energy technology rollout, pointing to the national broadband network.

The opposition leader says Australia cannot have the same "technological misadventure" with renewable energy.

"We need to be at the front of the pack, not well behind the pace," he will tell a virtual summit on Tuesday

Mr Albanese says low-cost electricity from renewables will help businesses grow so they can hire more Australians.

"With the right policy settings, falling power prices will act as a catalyst for a revival of the Australian manufacturing industry," he said.

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The Morrison government is using the same argument but in a bid to justify expanding the gas industry.

Rather than setting out a plan for the phase-out of export resources like coal, Mr Albanese says its future will be based on global demand.

"Labor respects existing resource export industries for the jobs they provide to Australians," he will say.

"Decisions about the long-term future of those industries will be made in the boardrooms of Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and New Delhi."

But he says renewables represent the future.

"We must use cheap, clean energy to maintain existing energy-intensive industries, like aluminium and steel, and also to develop new opportunities that have not previously been viable."

Labor's climate and energy policies include money for a national reconstruction fund, an upgrade for Australia's power lines, $200 million for community batteries and tax reforms to lower the cost of electric vehicles.

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