Scott Morrison unveils Australia’s plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050

The prime minister will now take the plan to the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will take a 2050 net zero commitment and updated emissions projection to Glasgow but no revised short-term target for 2030. 

The long-awaited policy announcement on Tuesday comes following months of negotiations to secure a final deal within the Coalition around the mid-century target.

It has also been revealed just days before Mr Morrison attends the COP26 summit, where leaders had been called on to increase the ambition of their policies.

Mr Morrison said the plan would harness technology to get "the balance right" between protecting jobs and industries in the transition to a decarbonised economy.

"Australians will set our own path by 2050 and we'll set it here by Australians for Australians," he told reporters in Canberra.

"It is not a revolution but a careful evolution to take advantage of changes in our markets."

But the proposal has faced immediate criticism from political opponents for lacking substantive detail or new initiatives to deliver this outcome. 

The net zero pledge comes after the Nationals - who had been concerned over the potential impact of the transition on regional Australia - finally signed off on the deal.

Mr Morrison has insisted the "uniquely Australian" plan will secure the opportunities of the energy transition without negatively impacting the regions.

"It will not shut down our coal or gas production or experts, it will not impact households, businesses or economy," he said.

The midcentury target would also be supported by an updated projection for 2030 to reduce emissions by 30 to 35 per cent.

But the government won’t formally update its current official short-term target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030 on 2005 levels.

Under the plan, a review of the 2050 policy will be conducted every five years by the Productivity Commission focused on how rural and regional communities are faring.

The main policy mechanisms proposed in the plan include investment in technology, incentives and offsets designed to facilitate the energy transition.

The government has committed to spending $20 billion on low emissions technologies by 2030. 

It's banking on the development of technologies like clean hydrogen, ultra low-cost solar, energy storage, low emissions steel and aluminium.

That is expected to trigger between $60 billion and $100 billion of public-private investments over the same period.

Mr Morrison said the proposed plan would adopt a whole of economy approach to responding to "the world's response to climate change".

"We can't let the changes that are happening around the world just happen to Australia," he said.

"We need to protect against the threats that come from that and we also need to realise the opportunities."

Emissions offsets secured through soil carbon, land sequestration and carbon capture and storage, as well as elsewhere in the Indo Pacific region will also be relied on.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor described the policy as a plan for “net zero, not absolute zero” meaning offsets would be critical to reaching that aim.

“The vision here is to take practical action to achieve net zero by 2050,” he told reporters.

Despite the 2050 plan being put forward, the full modelling behind it remains undisclosed with the prime minister stating this would be released "at another time".

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government's announcement for lacking in detail.

"There is net zero modelling, net zero legislation, and net zero unity," he told reporters in Canberra.

"Two days before the prime minister jets off for the most important international conference this century, he’s come up with this non-policy."

A slideshow provided by the government explains that Australia's carbon emissions have fallen 20 per cent since 2005. 

It would achieve the remaining 80 per cent reduction in the next three decades by relying on its technology investment roadmap to reduce emissions by 40 per cent.

Global technology trends are expected to account for 15 per cent, while international and domestic offsets represent a 10 to 20 per cent reduction.

Under the plan, gross national income is expected to increase by 1.6 per cent more than if no action was taken, with estimates 62,000 jobs in mining and heavy industry will also be created.

Greens leader Adam Bandt, who wants net zero by 2035, said the plan failed to do what is required to respond to the threat of climate change.

"This is a climate fraud - there is no new money, no new policies, and more coal and gas," he told reporters. 

Despite Mr Morrison securing majority support from the Nationals for net zero target, the Coalition partner had remained opposed to a stronger 2030 commitment.

He conceded it had been a "difficult" path for the Coalition to reach an agreement, but has defended his government's decision not to formally update its 2030 target.

"We may even achieve better, but this is the approach we put to the Australian people," Mr Morrison said.

Published 26 October 2021 at 12:32pm, updated 26 October 2021 at 3:30pm
By Tom Stayner
Source: SBS News