Scott Morrison’s latest flirtation with a net zero emissions target has been described as a “fundamental betrayal” of Australians, with Labor taking offence at the Prime Minister engaging in what it claims is “identity politics”.
Ahead of a global climate summit on Thursday called by US President Joe Biden, Mr Morrison inched closer to signing Australia up to the net zero target agreed on by all of the nation’s biggest allies, but again stopped short of locking in such a goal.
Labor’s shadow climate minister, Chris Bowen, claimed the PM had “crab-walked in a weak and pathetic fashion” toward the emissions goal.
“The weakest possible formulation you could come up with in terms of the Prime Minister of the day,” Mr Bowen said on Tuesday.
Mr Morrison, speaking on Monday night at a Business Council of Australia event, stuck to his mantra of reducing emissions through “technology not taxes”. He has previously said his government would like to reach net zero by 2050, a target formally agreed to by dozens of nations worldwide, but has stopped short of actually locking Australia into such a goal.
The PM said Australia would chart its “own course” and use “capitalism” rather than “taxes”, saying “the key to meeting our climate change ambitions is the commercialisation of low emissions technology”.
“It will be won in places like the Pilbara, the Hunter, Gladstone, Portland, Whyalla, Bell Bay and the Riverina,” he said.
“In the factories of our regional towns and outer suburbs. In the labs of our best research institutes and scientists.”
A net zero goal is embraced by most of Australia’s major trading partners and allies – the US, Britain, Japan, South Korea, China, India and Canada – and seen as a crucial measure to avert devastating climate change. There are fears Australia would be considered a global pariah on climate without such a commitment, and Mr Morrison’s latest commitment came just days before the Biden summit.
But even that nod toward net zero was enough to set off government senator Matt Canavan. The Queensland LNP member claimed the climate push would see Australia “fall flat on his face.”
Australia trying to go for net zero emissions is like the 10 year old boy who thinks he is superman and jumps off his parent's roof. He doesn't have the technology, and he is going to fall flat on his face.
— Matthew Canavan (@mattjcan) April 19, 2021
On the other side, Labor believes Mr Morrison should go further in signing up to net zero. But it was one small aside, that Australia would not “achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities”, that particularly irked Mr Bowen.
He accused Mr Morrison of engaging in “identity politics” and “the politics of division”.
“Not only is it unhelpful, it’s offensive, and it’s wrong,” Mr Bowen said of the ‘wine bar’ comment.
“Scott Morrison, as Prime Minister, has an obligation to unite Australians around a national objective. Not divide Australians into false groups… that is a fundamental betrayal of his job as Prime Minister to unite Australians.”
Mr Bowen said people in suburban and regional Australia were leading the way in the take-up of solar panel technology.
Independent MP for Warringah, Zali Steggall, also called out the PM’s rhetoric.
“Climate leadership is about bringing people together; being frank and honest about the economic and health threats posed by climate change; and accepting and relying on the science,” she said.
“The Prime Minister’s comments that emission reductions don’t happen in the inner city is simply a return to the old Abbott-era politics of dividing people.”
Ms Steggall unseated former PM Tony Abbott from the seat of Warringah at the 2019 election, running largely on a loud campaign pushing for strong action on climate change.
She claimed Mr Morrison’s comments were “factually wrong”, citing United Nations’ reports that the majority of global emissions were “influenced by the decisions we make as individuals”.
“The government clearly doesn’t want to have an honest conversation about targets and what they mean,” Ms Steggall said.
“Mr Morrison is focusing on regional blue-collar mining and industry votes and taking for granted everyone else at his own peril – especially inner-city voters of traditionally safe Liberal seats. This is a deliberate push to divide city and regional voters as well as white collar and blue-collar workers.”
-more to come