Scott Morrison still isn't sure if he'll go to COP26 climate talks in Glasgow

The COP26 summit is considered the most significant meeting on climate change since the signing of the Paris Agreement.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in New York.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in New York. Source: AP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled he could miss crucial international climate talks being held in Glasgow later this year.

The Prime Minister’s office has confirmed a decision has not been made on whether he will attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26.

The summit is considered the most significant meeting of world leaders on climate change since the ratification of the Paris Agreement in 2015.  

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said no final decision had been made on his attendance at the talks. 

But she denied the wrong signal would be sent by the Prime Minister not attending.

“It's not a no show at the conference, Australia will be strongly represented at the conference, no matter by which senior Australian representative,” Senator Payne told ABC Radio.  

"One thing we are absolutely committed to is setting out our long-term emissions reduction plan prior to the COP and that is what we are focused on as a government." 

It's understood Mr Morrison is weighing whether to take another international trip following his recent visit to Washington, given the potential quarantine requirement.

The timing of the Glasgow summit in November would also come around the time of Australia's potential reopening, with that factor being considered in his decision.

Mr Morrison has indicated he is committed to outlining a plan on how to reach net-zero emissions preferably by 2050, using a technology-based approach.  

The Quad leaders meeting in Washington last week comprising the United States, Australia, India and Japan also agreed to work together towards achieving this ambition.

But it remains to be seen whether the Australian government will update its emissions targets ahead of the Glasgow summit, despite partners the US and UK already revising their medium-term goals.

Australia has so far committed to reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 as part of the Paris Agreement.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has been critical of the federal government for not joining world leaders in committing to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“The Prime Minister should attend the Glasgow conference and he should represent Australia - if he doesn’t it’s because he is embarrassed by Australia’s position,” he told reporters.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt also said COP26 was a crucial meeting for Mr Morrison to attend.

“This is the climate’s last chance summit and Scott Morrison is refusing to show his face,” he told reporters. 

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has confirmed “discussions” are underway with the Nationals around the Coalition adopting a net-zero emissions target by 2050.

But Mr Joyce maintained that any such deal would need to outline the cost of the plan and not unfairly impact jobs in regional areas. 

Debate around the proposal within the Coalition remains divisive, with Nationals members such as Matt Canavan vehemently against the measure and others more open to the prospect.

Grattan Institute's energy and climate program director Tony Wood said right now the Australian government’s policy did not add up to reaching net-zero by 2050.

“The plan is important and ambition is part of the solution. But the government's also going to have to think about what we do to get there,” he told SBS News.

“Once you've decided what the destination is and how fast you want to get there then you fill in the gaps.”  

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarara has also issued a warning to world leaders ahead of the Glasgow talks to the UN General Assembly on Sunday.

He said leaders who cannot summon the courage to unveil net zero-commitments and policies to back it up at COP26 should not book a flight to Glasgow.

Published 27 September 2021 at 3:28pm
By Tom Stayner
Source: SBS News