Scott Morrison faces diplomatic and activist pressure to take more ambitious action on climate change as he attends the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome.
The Prime Minister is set to be greeted by a full-page ad in Italy’s business daily Il Sole 24 Ore featuring a photograph of him in parliament with a lump of coal.
The ad, in English and Italian, bears the slogan: “Don’t let Australia cheat on climate change”.
“Australia is not transitioning away from fossil fuels – it is increasing its dependence on them,” the Australia Institute ad says.
French president Emmanuel Macron also raised the issue in an ice-breaking phone call with Mr Morrison before the summit.
France reacted with fury after Australia scrapped a $90 billion submarine deal with Naval Group and opted instead for an agreement with the US and UK on nuclear-powered subs.
“The President … encouraged the Australian Prime Minister to adopt ambitious measures commensurate with the climate challenge, in particular the ratcheting up of the nationally determined contribution, the commitment to cease production and consumption of coal at the national level and abroad, and greater Australian support to the International Solar Alliance,” a statement out of the Elysee said.
Australia’s slow response
Australia has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 but is not lifting its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
At the summit, Mr Morrison is expected to raise the issue of Australia providing clean energy technology to developing nations and leveraging the private sector to tackle climate change.
On arrival in Rome on Friday for the G20 Mr Morrison told reporters it was important to develop global technology solutions that could work worldwide.
“This is why the Australian way to achieving net zero emissions, I think, is a way all countries can embrace because it’s about getting technology solutions at scale and affordable costs because that’s what history tells us always makes the change.”
Mr Macron said Australia, in its ditching of the French submarine deal, “broke the relationship of trust” between the two nations and it was up to Mr Morrison to repair the relationship.
“It is now up to the Australian government to propose tangible actions that embody the political will of Australia’s highest authorities to redefine the basis of our bilateral relationship,” he told Mr Morrison.
‘We’ve started the way back’
The Prime Minister told reporters in Rome he very much appreciated that Mr Macron had reached out to make a personal call to him, and Australia understood the obvious disappointment of France.
“So we’ve started the way back, I think that’s a positive thing. Of course there will be candid conversations at the start as we deal with the issues as they’ve presented,” Mr Morrison said.
“The way you build back those relationships is you work together on the things that matter to us both,” he continued, referencing shared interests in the Indo-Pacific and policies on oceans, technology and Antarctica.
Ahead of the climate summit, Mr Morrison said the world was reaching a critical point in its health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia was committed to providing millions of vaccines, especially to countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, he said.
G20 leaders are facing calls to stop the hoarding of vaccine doses in wealthier countries and airlift the jabs to 92 nations struggling to get vaccination under way.
The Prime Minister will speak at the G20 during a session on the dangers of social media for children and will ask other leaders to follow Australia in holding social media platforms to account.
Mr Morrison also will meet with Indonesian leader Joko Widodo, whose government is concerned the nuclear submarines deal could raise tensions in the region and undermine the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.