Australia will not “declare war” on its industries in order to cut emissions, the Energy Minister says hours before crunch climate talks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will address a virtual climate summit on Thursday evening as industrialised nations declare their intention to drastically reduce emissions.
The federal government has avoided joining the UK, the US, and other major powers in committing to a net zero emissions target by 2050 but has claimed it remains on course to reach a 26 or 28 per cent reduction by 2030.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor insisted Australia would not “declare war on industry” in order to reach more ambitious goals.
“Technology is the key. It’s always been the key of humans solving hard problems and it will be the case,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.
“The goal here is not to declare war on an industry.”
The European Union in December declared its intentions to slash emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, while US President Joe Biden was expected to use the summit to announce a 50 per cent target by that date.
That would follow a commitment this week from the UK to cut emissions by 78 per cent within 14 years in what Westminster described as “the world’s most ambitious climate target”.
But Mr Taylor rejected suggestions Australia was in danger of falling behind the rest of the industrialised world.
“Politicians’ promises are one thing (but) delivery is what counts. There are lots of countries that have made promises in the past and pulled out … What counts, at the end of the day, is delivery,” he said.
And Mr Taylor claimed Australia aimed to surpass its comparatively low emissions reduction target, which he described as “always a floor … not a cap” on its ambitions.
“We always shoot to meet and beat our targets. That’s exactly what we seek to do, but we deliver,” he said.
“So set the bar low and then over-deliver. Is that it, minister?” asked host Fran Kelly.
Mr Taylor said Australia had over-delivered on its Kyoto targets despite public scepticism.
But clean energy groups say the claim was based on a credit claimed in the early 1990s based on a reduction in land clearing, but Australia had since allowed fossil fuel use to grow.
The federal government on Wednesday unveiled a $539m plan to boost hydrogen and carbon capture technology as part of the May budget, along with $565.8m towards international low emissions technology partnerships.
The Energy Minister was pressed on whether the hydrogen spruiked by the government would be made with fossil fuels.
Mr Taylor said hydrogen would be made with “anything that allows us to reduce emissions”.
“You know what: If it’s zero emissions, it’s fine. That’s the point. It’s got to be clean,” he said.
Labor frontbencher Tony Burke demanded the government follow the rest of the industrialised world by committing to a net zero target by 2050.
“It needs to happen. It’s in the national interest, it’s in the commercial interests of Australia, and it’s in the environmental interests of Australia for that to happen,” he told Sky News.
Labor has yet to commit to a mid-range target, but its climate spokesman Chris Bowen said its 2030 or 2035 aims would be revealed “well before the next election”.