While negotiations around the Morrison government’s commitment to a zero net emissions target continue to rage within the Liberal-National Coalition, there are indications that prime minister Scott Morrison has left open the possibility that he will attend the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.
Morrison has been engaged in negotiations with the leadership of the Nationals around a net zero emissions target. Reports suggest that these negotiations are making progress, but it is not yet known what concessions the Nationals have secured in return for support for a target.
At the very least, the Nationals are demanding concessions for the resources and agricultural sectors.
That plan will then be presented to the Liberal and National party rooms for endorsement – party rooms that include the likes of Matt Canavan, George Christensen, Gerard Rennick and Keith Pitt.
This party room meeting is expected to be held next week – leaving Morrison just a two week buffer before the talks to secure agreement on a 2050 target and without a second chance.
It is not a plan that is being designed on the basis of the best scientific advice, or the recommendations of leading policy experts – but based on Morrison securing the minimum needed to take to Glasgow and what the Nationals think they will be able to sell to their constituents at a looming federal election.
Morrison has faced mounting local and international pressure to commit to a zero emissions target for 2050 – and is unlikely to want to face yet another international forum with a climate policy deemed insufficient by international peers.
Morrison will not want to go to Glasgow merely to announce that Australia cannot commit to a solid 2050 target for zero net emissions. His mere ‘preference’ for reaching zero emissions as fast as possible has not cut-mustard with international peers who see through it as shallow.
But if Morrison has a 2050 target to announce in Glasgow, he may see his own attendance as advantageous – if only because he may be welcomed back into the international fold with the likes of the US, UK, Japan and the European Union.
There is already one indication that Morrison may attend the conference; he has been listed as a participant in an official side event to be held on November 05 in Glasgow.
Morrison is a listed participant at a side event to be held within the venues of the COP26 talks, an event formally sanctioned by the organisers of the UN talks.
The event, scheduled in the middle of the fortnight of negotiations that make up the COP26 talks, will cover “climate finance for nature-based solutions” and how they can contribute to meeting national climate change targets.
It sounds like exactly the kind of event Scott Morrison would want to attend, in support of Australia’s significant reliance on land-use based measures for its emissions reductions.
The list of attendees for side events at climate talks should always be taken with a grain of salt – and can be notoriously unreliable (there was an infamous event at the COP17 talks held in Durban in 2011 that billed Al Gore and Desmond Tutu, but the event organisers had not actually secured their participation).
But the event listed as including Morrison is being organised by the Commonwealth of Nations – the forum that brings together current and former British territories – and so has some level of credibility.
Prince Charles himself recently weighed in on Australia’s lack of leadership on climate change, telling the BBC that he saw his role to “gently try to suggest there may be other ways of doing things”, in response to Australia’s reluctance to take stronger action.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet told RenewEconomy that a decision about Morrison’s attendance at COP26 had not yet been finalised and that further information would be provided in due course.
Of course, Morrison could also send a pre-recorded message to the event – as he did for the UN General Assembly meeting in New York last month. Strangely, despite physically being in the United States, Morrison’s address to the UN General Assembly was message he had pre-recorded in Canberra.
Alternatively, he could also snub the event altogether – which is expected to feature senior figures from a number of Commonwealth nations – which wouldn’t be unprecedented for a prime minister that has previously been dismissive of Australia’s Pacific Islands neighbours.