The government has been accused of being “stuck in a culture war” as the rest of the world leaves it behind on climate change.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under mounting pressure to commit to a net zero emissions target as Australia prepares for a key climate held by new US President Joe Biden this week.
Mr Morrison was one of 40 world leaders invited to take part in a virtual summit to be held between April 22-23 as the federal government seeks to align itself more closely with Washington on climate policy.
But Labor climate spokesman Chris Bowen has accused Mr Morrison of making Australia an “outlier” on the world stage, as other countries prepared for the summit by ramping up their ambitions.
“Meantime, the Australian government’s still stuck in the climate culture wars and can’t even commit to the basic, most necessary commitments,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
Labor has committed to net zero by 2050 and has touted the potential for Australia to become a “clean energy superpower”, and Mr Bowen said Australia could miss out on that opportunity.
“The world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity. It’s an emergency that is not being met and an opportunity that is not being taken up by Scott Morrison,” he said.
Mr Bowen said the rest of country, including the states and industries, were aiming for net zero by 2050 regardless of inaction from Canberra.
“The only people not getting it are the federal government,” he said.
“That comes at a cost because without the national framework, the policy framework to get to zero, we’re not … meeting the economic opportunity.”
Mr Biden has committed to net zero by 2050 and made climate action a key pillar of his presidency, and the White House has announced it will also unveil an “ambitious” target for 2030 imminently.
But Mr Biden’s special climate envoy John Kerry last week singled out Australia as an impediment to Washington’s strategy.
“I’ve talked to Australia (and) we had a very good conversation,” he said.
“Australia has had some differences with us. We’ve not been able to get on the same page completely. That was one of the problems in Madrid, together with Brazil.”
It comes after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned Mr Morrison from a climate summit over what he saw as Canberra’s lack of ambition.