Australia’s Resources Minister has castigated a climate change warning from the United Nations secretary-general as an inconsequential “grand statement”.
Antonio Guterres has warned the world is heading for a catastrophic temperature rise of more than three degrees by the end of the century unless all countries declare climate emergencies.
His statement was made at a weekend climate summit where Australia was denied a chance to speak.
Australia is increasingly globally isolated on climate change, given the Morrison government’s refusal to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt dismissed the climate warning from Mr Guterres.
“Grand statements are quite simple to make,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“If they made a difference, [Labor MPs] Mark Butler and Pat Conroy made that exact statement in the parliament many months ago and I don’t seem to recall it changing anything.
“It’s about outcomes, it’s about a plan, it’s about knowing where we’re going and what it will cost, and it’s about delivery.”
But Mr Butler, who is Labor’s climate spokesman, said Australia was becoming increasingly isolated on the world stage.
“There’s just been an enormous shift, particularly in the past few months, as the world’s great trading nations have all coalesced around this mid-century commitment of net zero emissions,” Mr Butler said.
“It’s going to shape investment patterns, it’s going to shape job creation over the next few decades.
“Because Scott Morrison stubbornly won’t make that same commitment, Australia sits really quite isolated and out of step from the rest of the world.”
The Prime Minister appears to be pivoting slightly on climate action, saying he would like to see Australia achieve net zero emissions as soon as possible.
Mr Pitt refused to offer a view on achieving the target by 2050.
“In 30 years I’m hopeful I’m still breathing, but we’ll maintain our focus on the commitments we’ve made, that the Australian people have agreed to,” he said.
“In regional Australia in particular, we want to make sure that those big industries that continue to drive employment for us are sustainable into the long term.”
Mr Pitt is confident strong global demand for Australian coal will continue long into the future.
He has requested a parliamentary inquiry into lenders and insurers blacklisting companies linked to coal and gas producers.
Mr Pitt believes legitimate, law-abiding companies are being unfairly targeted for being involved in the fossil fuel sector.