Prime Minister Scott Morrison has doubled down on his government’s climate change stance, despite an expected change of pace from the US under President-elect Joe Biden.
Mr Biden has promised to recommit the US to the Paris Agreement and pursue a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.
He is also expected to pursue other stronger commitments to dealing with global climate change – a move that has put Australia’s climate change targets back in the spotlight.
On Monday, Mr Morrison refused to set a timeline for net zero carbon emissions, leaving Australia increasingly exposed among its major trading partners.
“Australia will always set its policies based on Australia’s national interests,” he said.
“The United States will make their decisions based on their interests and their capabilities and how their economy is structured, and we’ll do the same.”
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham deflected questions about Mr Biden setting a net zero target.
Senator Birmingham focused instead on the US rejoining the Paris Agreement, which Australia has signed on to.
He also shifted the conversation to investing in emission reduction technologies, which underpins the federal government’s climate change policies.
“We look forward to the United States taking a complementary approach in investing similarly in terms of emissions reductions policies,” Senator Birmingham told the ABC.
“Australia has reduced emissions by a greater rate since 2005 than the OECD, on average, by a greater rate than the United States.
“What we want to see is that the rest of the world achieves the same type of success as we have in building a strong trajectory, but to get us to the point of net zero as soon as possible.”
Independent MP for Warringah Zali Steggall will introduce her climate change bill to parliament on Monday, having delayed the plan because of the coronavirus pandemic.
She told ABC radio if Mr Morrison wasn’t “willing to step up with the coalition government, then open it up to a conscience vote”.
“Let MPs represent their electorates because climate change is a moral issue. It’s a question of our ultimate long-term safety,” she said.
The Paris Agreement commits all members to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of the century.
But countries are setting more ambitious targets ahead of a major climate change conference in Glasgow in 2021.
Japan, South Korea and Britain have adopted the emissions target by 2050, while China has set a deadline of 2060.
Labor frontbencher Penny Wong is keen to focus on the widening chasm on carbon neutrality, with Australia the odd one out.
“It’s a great moment for America and a great moment for the world to see a new administration elected with a very substantial climate agenda – one that really does isolate Scott Morrison,” she told the ABC.
Mr Morrison has invited Mr Biden to visit Australia in 2021 for the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty.
He is also keen to work with the President-elect on tackling the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus.
The US has reached another grim milestone, surpassing 10 million cases of coronavirus.
Mr Biden is assembling a team of scientists and experts to inform his administration’s approach to the pandemic.
He has been declared president by major US media networks but Donald Trump has refused to concede defeat.
“Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be?” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday.