Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to commit to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, despite describing it as “achievable”.
Ahead of the release of the federal government’s long-awaited technology roadmap for the energy sector this week, Mr Morrison said zero net emissions would be achieved in the second half of this century.
But when pressed by ABC Insiders host David Speers about a commitment to a 2050 target, Mr Morrison said he was more committed to investing in technology.
“I’m more interested in the doing,” he said.
“I know people get very focused on the politics of these commitments, but what I’m focused on is on the technology that delivers lower emissions, lower cost and more jobs.
“That’s what actually matters to people. That’s what changes their lives, and so that’s what we’re delivering. And when we make a commitment, we meet it. And we don’t just meet it, we beat it.”
Net zero emissions means every tonne of man-made greenhouse gas that is emitted must be matched by a tonne removed from the atmosphere.
More than 70 countries have adopted the 2050 target. Individually, every Australian state has also signed up to net zero emissions by 2050 — either as a target or goal.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has also pledged to meet a target of net zero emissions by 2050 but has yet to detail how Australia would get there.
But federally, the Coalition has long been divided over climate change and energy policy, with some government backbenchers deeply opposed to any 2050 target.
It has also previously said it will not sign up to net zero emissions without knowing what the costs are.
The Coalition last week announced it would broaden the scope of government agencies set up to invest in renewables by allowing the funding of new low-emissions technology.
Mr Morrison said the policy would help the government achieve the target of net zero emissions, without specifically mandating it.
“Our policy is to achieve that in the second half of this century, and we’ll certainly achieve that, and that’s why this week’s announcements were so important because it was about the technology we need to invest in now, which will make it a reality, particularly on the other side of 2030,” the Prime Minister said.
“I think even the sort of target you’ve talked about then becomes absolutely achievable.
“I’m interested in doing the things that make that happen. And I think that is very achievable.”
Mr Albanese said the Coalition was still struggling to settle on energy policy, sending the wrong signal to investors.
“The problem with the Prime Minister’s position is that he’s creating massive uncertainty as well, which is a disincentive to invest,” he said.
“The government says they’re going to have a roadmap, but to a destination they don’t have.
“A roadmap without a destination is a road to nowhere.”
Energy shortfall revised down
Last week, Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Mr Morrison said 1000 megawatts of new dispatchable energy was needed to replace the Liddell power station before it closed in 2023.
But the government then released the advice it received in April from a task force set up to assess the impact of Liddell’s closure, which did not find that 1000 megawatts of additional dispatchable electricity would be needed, and instead, listed projects that would be sufficient to maintain power grid reliability when Liddell shut.
On Insiders, Mr Morrison appeared to revise the figure down.
“Well, there’s about 250 megawatts, or thereabouts, that we believe are going to be necessary to fill that plan out. And we can do that, and deliver it on the ground, and that’s important,” he said.
“A lot of people can talk projects but they’ve got to get approved, they’ve got to be built in time, and you can get a gas-fired power station built in that time and delivered when it’ll be there. It won’t be on the wish list, it’ll be on the done list.”
Mr Albanese accused the government of constantly changing its position on energy policy.
“Now Scott Morrison is saying it might be 250 [megawatts] that’s needed, and we’re neutral about what the technology will be to fill that void,” he said.
“The Prime Minister has to explain how it is that people, companies, can bid for that process.”