Coalition roasted over 2030 emission target backtrack

Andrew Brown and Dominic Giannini |

The Nationals leader says the aim of cutting emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 is unsustainable.
The Nationals leader says the aim of cutting emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 is unsustainable.

Australia’s world standing would be lowered if plans for 2030 emission reduction targets were scrapped by the coalition, the prime minister says, as some opposition MPs express surprise at the move.

The coalition has come out against the government’s target of a 43 per cent reduction by the end of the decade, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton under pressure to reveal his desired figure before the next election.

Mr Dutton has said any coalition targets for 2030 would be revealed only after winning the next election.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (file image)
Peter Dutton says current emission targets are ruining the economy. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australia has a responsibility to neighbouring countries to have a strong climate target.

“Pacific nations regard action on climate change as the entry fee for credibility and for engagement in our region,” he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

“For places like Tuvalu and Kiribati, it is literally an existential threat to their ongoing existence.”

Mr Dutton said the current target had sent a “wrecking ball through the economy”.

“We have had a sensible approach, a measured approach. We want to get our country back on track,” he told reporters in Sydney. 

“We want to make sure that we’ve got an energy policy that’s working for Australians, not against them.

“I’m not going to sign up to an arrangement that destroys our economy and sends families into bankruptcy.”

Anthony Albanese arrives for a meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum
Anthony Albanese says the 2030 emissions target is essential for leadership in the Pacific region. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Several coalition MPs had been caught off guard by the opposition leader’s announcement.

While changes to the 2030 target had been floated, some thought an announcement would come as part of an overall energy package as Mr Dutton prepares to unveil the opposition’s signature nuclear policy.

The opposition has been under fire for not revealing the locations for proposed nuclear power plants, despite Mr Dutton pledging to do so before May’s federal budget.

While exact locations have not been announced, it’s expected they will be in areas with pre-existing coal or gas plants.

Coalition MPs are not wedded to the idea of having a 2030 target, but some conceded scrapping it would open the opposition up to attacks on its climate policies.

One said it would be hard to win back voters that swung to independents, creating a tough challenge to target teal seats in metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne.

Senator Bridget McKenzie (file image)
Bridget McKenzie says the coalition is committed to net zero by 2050. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie said the opposition still supported net zero measures, but plans to reduce emissions had to change.

“As the coalition remains committed to net zero by 2050, so too does our recognition of reality,” she told AAP.

“Net zero does not mean net-zero pain, and so we are also committed to support those regions which will be negatively impacted over coming decades, so they can seize the opportunities and overcome the challenges of a low-emission future.”

Independent MP Allegra Spender said the coalition’s backtrack on 2030 targets was at odds with what voters had indicated at the last election.

“The climate wars that delayed Australia’s climate policy for 15 years should have been settled by the last election, but it seems the coalition didn’t get the message and are once again putting political point-scoring ahead of evidence-based policymaking,” she said.

“Australia can’t afford to wait any longer. Last year was the hottest year on record, and these records are already being broken again in 2024.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the debate surrounding 2030 targets was little more than hot air.

“Neither Labor nor Liberal targets meet the Paris agreement climate goals, and instead of a confected debate about something Peter Dutton won’t even have the power to do, we should focus on what the science demands and stop opening new coal and gas mines,” he said.

AAP