Matt Canavan pushes against net zero emissions target

Australia should stand up to foreign powers threatening to “punch it in the face” over climate change, an outspoken Nationals senator says.

National MPs have threatened a revolt after Scott Morrison flagged a softening position on a 2050 net zero emissions target.

The Prime Minister said technology would drive Australia’s bid to reduce carbon emissions, but the government has yet to commit to a net zero target.

The shifting language comes as Australia is locked in negotiations for free trade agreements with the European Union and UK, which have both committed to the target.

RELATED: Scott Morrison defiant as UN bans Australia from climate conference

But Senator Canavan said Australia should “stand up” to foreign powers making trade contingent on emissions reduction.

“That’s bullying: give us your lunch money or we’re going to punch you in the face,” he told Sky News.

“This is ridiculous and I’m not going to take lectures from other countries that have not met their targets.

“I don’t think they’ve got any moral high ground to make those arguments.”

Senator Canavan reiterated a threat to cross the floor over the proposal, and was joined by fellow backbencher Barnaby Joyce.

However, the government does not need to legislate the target.

Nationals leader Michael McCormack attempted to quell the rebellion on Saturday by suggesting agriculture could be excluded, and idea quickly opposed by the Business Council of Australia.

The National Farmers Federation also confirmed it was committed to a net zero target, saying “farmers are in the box seat to seize the opportunities” of a clean energy future.

But Senator Canavan claimed the Coalition would be betraying its voters if it went ahead with the plan.

“We stood at the last election and were elected on a policy platform to oppose zero emissions,” he told Sky News.

“(Emissions Reduction Minister) Angus Taylor came out and called the net zero targets the Labor Party took to the election absurd and too costly for the country.

“That’s the mandate and policy platform that we were elected on less than two years ago.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was “preposterous” the government was splintering over a target it was yet to adopt.

“There’s no actual target being adopted and now there’s a debate and conflict within his backbench over what might happen some time in the future,” he said.

New US President Joe Biden became the latest world leader to commit to a net zero target last month.

Mr Albanese argued Mr Biden’s election offered a chance to reset Australia’s climate approach after “falling behind the rest of the world”.

But Senator Canavan claimed the result should have no impact on Australia, referencing discredited allegations of widespread voter fraud in the US.

“I did not hear any allegations that Australian people would vote in the US election. None of us got a vote,” he said.

“So why should we change our policy because of the election in other countries?”

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