Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has conceded Scott Morrison will make the final call on committing to a 2050 net zero carbon emissions target as coalition climate divisions continue.
The Nationals leader said his party would not bully or coerce the Prime Minister, conceding it was his “prerogative” to make the decision.
“He has his own mandate and he has his own capacity,” Mr Joyce said on Tuesday.
“That is absolutely and utterly his own right.”
The contentious issue was not mentioned when Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce addressed a meeting of Coalition MPs in Canberra on Tuesday.
Some Nationals remain staunchly opposed to the 2050 target, while senior Liberal cabinet ministers are making the case to sign up.
Mr Morrison has linked Australia’s alliances to the climate target he wants to take to a United Nations conference which starts in less than two weeks.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said working with the US and Britain was crucial as the region faced its most uncertain security situation in years.
“Those alliances really matter. That means working together on other issues like emissions reduction is important,” he told 4BC radio.
“But we’ll always do it in a way which is right for our regions, our traditional industries. We’re not going to hit our exports with policies that are going to hurt them.”
Mr Morrison has indicated cabinet, which is due to meet on Wednesday, will make the final call rather than a vote of MPs because the pledge will not be legislated.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt – a Nationals MP not in cabinet – defended how long it was taking for his colleagues to reach a decision on a 2050 net zero target.
“Right now, it’s a no, as the Deputy Prime Minister has said, but those discussions are ongoing,” he told ABC radio.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley, a Liberal in a regional NSW electorate, said it wasn’t just Nationals who represented the bush.
“My strong belief is that rural and regional Australians have a lot to benefit from a move to net zero,” she told ABC radio.
“I’ve certainly heard that from farmers and rural communities.”
Nationals senator Matt Canavan warned there would be ugly consequences if Mr Morrison forged ahead with a net zero target.
Ahead of the joint party room meeting, Senator Canavan accused Mr Morrison of “gaslighting” coalition MPs through media reports suggesting a net-zero decision had been made.
The federal government has ruled out lifting its 2030 emissions target from a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels.
But updated projections for that date are expected to be released this week.
Moderate Liberal MP Dave Sharma said it was in Australia’s security and economic interests to back a net zero target.
“Nations will expect us to have a policy when we turn up to Glasgow and that’s when it will be announced,” he told the ABC.