'Sensible settlement' or 'strong action': Labor divided on carbon emissions

Senior Labor figures are divided over whether the party should wind back its carbon emissions targets to match those of the Coalition moving forward.

Joel Fitzgibbon and Anthony Albanese are at odds over Labor’s climate strategy.

Joel Fitzgibbon and Anthony Albanese are at odds over Labor’s climate strategy. Source: AAP

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has weighed into his party’s climate change policy debate from Hawaii as division rages on whether Labor should reduce its carbon emissions target.

Senior Labor figures have shown division after Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon declared the party should reach a ‘sensible settlement’ and wind back its emissions goals to match those of the Morrison government.

Labor went into the last election with a 45 per cent emissions reduction target - substantially more ambitious than the Coalition’s goal of a 26 per cent to 28 per cent fall on 2005 levels by 2030.

But a tweet from Labor leader Anthony Albanese from Hawaii, where he is attending an Australia-America Leadership Dialogue, provided no further clarity over where the party stands.

“Am proud that @AusralianLabor has consistently supported strong action on Climate Change based up the science – and that action will not only protect our environment but is also good for our economy," he tweeted.

Mr Fitzgibbon is calling for Labor to match the Coalition’s emissions reduction targets, before considering a more ambitious approach moving forward.

“I think our climate change policy at the last election damaged us and we need to listen to that message. We need to be less ambitious,” he said on Wednesday.

He argues this would refocus attention on holding their opponents accountable over the emissions goals, rather than Labor being a target for scare campaigns.

“Many of the people I have talked to have acknowledged that to win an election we have to have a policy that the community accepts," he said.

Opposition resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon.
Source: AAP

But his position has split senior Labor figures, including Opposition Energy Spokesperson Mark Butler, who said Mr Fitzgibbon’s proposal would breach Australia’s emissions reduction commitments.

"Labor’s commitment to action on climate change is unshakeable. We will have a 2050 target of net zero emissions and medium-term targets which are consistent with the agreement," he said.

Mr Butler said the government's targets were set by former prime minister Tony Abbott and if adopted worldwide would lead to global warming of three degrees.

"The Government’s target, which was developed by Tony Abbott with no expert advice, [and] is fundamentally inconsistent with the Paris agreement."

"Labor remains committed to implementing the principles of the Paris Agreement, which are to keep global warming well below 2C and pursue efforts around 1.5C."

Meanwhile, Labor frontbencher Matt Keogh has reportedly backed Mr Fitzgibbon's call for Labor to adopt a less ambitious approach to climate change policy.

Opposition Energy Spokesman Mark Butler.
Source: AAP

Treasurer Joel Chalmers told reporters on Wednesday, the party’s review of policies following its election loss in May needed to remain committed to "real action on climate change".

“As we review and revise our policies from the last election, and we understand that they may not be identical at the next election, we need to take real action on climate change,” he said.

“It’s possible to take action on climate change by building on our traditional strengths as an economy and not abandoning them.”

Opposition Treasurer Jim Chalmers.
Source: AAP

He said all points of view, including Mr Fitzgibbon’s, would be considered in this review process.

“We have a history of putting forward ambitious policy, to deal with climate change … I think that that’s an important objective for us to continue to have,” he said.

The Morrison government has consistently defended its carbon emissions targets, saying the nation is on track to meet its commitments under the Kyoto and Paris agreements.

This is despite Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rising year on year since a carbon pricing scheme was abolished five years ago.          

Labor has flagged it could drop its 45 per cent emissions reduction target - but pledged it remains committed to strong action on climate change.

Liberal MP and Energy Minister Angus Taylor has said "Labor got it wrong" at the last election and is in "chaos".  

With AAP

Published 10 October 2019 at 7:57am, updated 10 October 2019 at 11:13am
By Tom Stayner