Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stepped up pressure on the Nationals to back a revised climate plan before he heads to United Nations talks in Glasgow.
Mr Morrison on Friday confirmed he would attend the COP26 talks in person, after weeks of criticism Australia may only send a delegation of senior ministers.
The decision will focus the minds of all Coalition members as they thrash out how to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 while ensuring regional jobs are protected and power prices are kept affordable.
“The challenge is not about the ‘if’ and the ‘when’ – the challenge is about the ‘how’,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
“The government will be finalising its position for me to take to that summit prior to my departure over the next fortnight.
“We are working through those issues with our cabinet and with our colleagues and I look forward to those discussions concluding over the next couple of weeks.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce indicated the Nationals would approach a firm net zero target with exceptional caution during a partyroom meeting scheduled for Sunday.
Mr Joyce claimed regional Australia was “swindled” under the Kyoto protocol.
‘Extreme caution wrapped in cynicism’
“If what is asked once more is for the regional areas to fulfil capital city climate policy prerogatives, to feel good about a sacrifice they didn’t actually make, then what other option do we have than extreme caution wrapped in cynicism,” he said in a Facebook post.
Mr Morrison said it was not simply about hitting net zero, as important as that was as an environmental goal.
“What’s important is Australia’s economy goes from strength to strength and the livelihoods and the lives that Australians know, particularly in rural and regional areas, are able to go forward with hope and with confidence,” he said.
Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is considered the bare minimum globally.
Australia will also be expected to take a higher 2030 target to Glasgow, instead of relying on over-achieving its existing mid-term emissions reduction pledge of between 26 and 28 per cent.
The Liberals will convene next week when parliament returns ahead of a joint Coalition partyroom meeting on Tuesday.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton sought to reassure lingering Nationals dissenters “there is nothing the government will be putting forward that destroys jobs or destroys economies”.
“We’ll get the balance right,” he told the Nine Network.
Mr Morrison’s announcement came after the Queen – who will attend COP26 – appeared to suggest she was irritated by a lack of action in tackling the climate crisis.
‘Last chance saloon’
Mobile phone footage emerged of her saying she still didn’t know which world leaders would attend the conference.
Earlier in the week, Prince Charles urged Mr Morrison and other world leaders to attend, calling it the “last chance saloon” to save the planet.
“It takes a lot to annoy the Queen, but the Queen is not happy,” Labor climate spokesman Chris Bowen said.
“The Queen is unimpressed and Australians have every right to be unimpressed as well and that’s what really should be driving Scott Morrison – the fact that Australians are missing out on jobs and investment and running the risk of higher interest rates.”