Australia PM says no timeline to achieve zero carbon emissions

Carbon emissions blamed for Australia’s hotter and drier condition, increasing the risk of more droughts and bushfires.

Australia fires
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison touring areas of New South Wales affected by the devastating 2019 bushfire [File: Wolter Peeters/EPA]

Australia’s government is in no rush to sign up to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, although it recognises the importance of working towards that goal, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an interview published on Saturday.

Morrison’s conservative government, in a surprise change of policy last month, said it would achieve its 2030 carbon emissions pledge under the Paris climate agreement without counting carbon credits from over-achieving on its previous climate targets.

But in an interview with The Australian newspaper, Morrison said he will not take a new 2030 or 2035 emissions reduction target to a key United Nations climate conference in Glasgow in November.

“It is about whether you can produce hydrogen at the right cost, it is about whether [carbon capture and storage] can be done at the right cost, it is whether we can produce low emissions steel and aluminium at the right cost,” the newspaper quoted Morrison as saying.

“That is how you actually get to net zero. You don’t get there by just having some commitment. That is where the discussion has to go, and I think the [US President Joe] Biden administration provides an opportunity to really pursue that with some enthusiasm.”

Australia’s emissions are now projected to be 29 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, compared with its Paris accord target of cutting carbon emissions by between 26 and 28 percent, based on recent growth in renewable energy and what could be achieved under an 18-billion-Australian-dollar ($14bn) technology investment plan the government outlined in September.

“We all want to get there,” Morrison said. “It is not about the politics any more, it is about the technology.”

More extreme heat expected

He added that the timeline to commit to a zero-net-emissions target will depend on “where the science is at and where our assessment is based on the technologies”.

According to the latest climate report from the country’s weather bureau published in November, Australia is expected become hotter and drier, increasing the risk of drought and extreme weather events such as the bushfires that devastated swaths of its southeastern region in 2019.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM)’s latest State of the Climate report blames carbon emissions for the increase in extreme heat, noting that a hotter Australia will affect the lives and livelihoods of everyone who lives there.

Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.44 degrees Celsius since national records began in 1910, the report said. The country experienced its warmest year on record in 2019, and the seven years from 2013 to 2019 all ranked among the nine warmest years ever, the BoM said.

Australia as a whole is also reporting more “extremely warm” days with 43 reported in 2019, more than triple the number in any of the years prior to 2000.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters