Federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor has said that the Morrison government had no interest in setting ambitious climate change targets, but would rather set targets the government knew it was already able to meet.
Speaking to an online event organised by the Carbon Markets Institute, Taylor said that he did not believe it was good policy to set higher emissions reduction targets, despite growing calls on the government to lift its climate change ambition.
“In some ways, what people want is a very high target. So you can force a whole lot of the reforms that you love, I get that. But that’s not necessarily good policy,” Taylor told the event.
“Other countries set these thumping great targets and say, ‘Wow, aren’t we wonderful?’ Actually, we take a different approach. Which is to set a target we think we can achieve and go out and smash it. And that’s the approach the government has taken.”
It reconfirms answers that the Morrison government gave to questions posed in senate estimates, where it said that it had no plans to revisit the emissions reduction target that has set for 2030, and that it was unlikely that a future target would be announced before the government was required to under the Paris Agreement before 2025.
Taylor’s refusal to consider stronger or longer-term emissions reduction targets follows the announcement by the UK government that the next round of international climate talks to be held in Glasgow will be delayed a full 12-months, to November 2021, as a result of Covid-19.
It means that there will be no annual international climate change negotiations held in 2020, a crucial year marking the start of the Paris Agreement coming into force.
Environmental groups have called on the Morrison government to spend the additional year before the next round of international climate talks are able to convene to review and strengthen its emissions reduction targets.
“The postponement should not delay urgently needed action on climate change which is already increasing poverty and suffering around the world,” Oxfam Australia Advocacy and Campaigns Manager Conor Costello said.
“As host, the UK government has the opportunity to take a global lead in pushing for post-pandemic plans to build back a better, greener economy and encouraging other countries, including Australia, to develop more ambitious emissions reduction plans to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
“The Australian Government would do well to spend the next year delivering on its commitment to revise our emissions reductions,” Costello added.
Australia’s greenhouse emissions under the Coalition government have remained comparatively flat since the election of the Abbott government in 2013.
Updated emissions data released on Friday showed that Australia’s emissions fell by just 0.9 per cent in 2019, due to increased renewables uptake and prevailing drought conditions, well short of the economic transition required to achieve deeper long-term emissions cuts.
Taylor told the Carbon Markets Institute event that he did not want to see a price on carbon imposed by the government, and was confident that technological innovation would help Australia achieve further emissions reductions without increasing costs.
However, it is not clear what technological innovations the Morrison government is planning for, despite unspecified ‘technology improvements’ representing a substantial chunk of the government’s emissions reduction plan, other than hoping that consumers will ultimately choose lower emissions technologies without the need to impose a price signal.
“We didn’t tax horses to get cars, we didn’t text candles to get electric lights. What we did is we actually saw emerging technologies where we leveraged our way into them,” Taylor said.
“I’m not saying that some sort of whiz-bang technology, manna from heaven, sort of emerges sometime in the next few years and all of a sudden this is all done easy,” Taylor added.
“The technology is already there. But what we haven’t worked out how to do is turn that into a business model where the costs come down fast enough, so consumers that choose, and consumer choice is so fundamentally important.”
Despite saying the government had faith in consumer choices, the Morrison government has pushed for suppose to be directed towards a “gas-led” economic recovery in response to the Covid-19 crisis, after appointing a stack of oil and gas executives to a commission tasked with overseeing the government’s economic response.
Meanwhile, the European Union has announced a 750 billion Euro (A$1.251 trillion) green stimulus package, that will prioritise investment in renewable energy, green hydrogen and sustainable transport projects at the heart of its economic response to Covid-19.
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