Barnaby Joyce has warned the Nationals will oppose more ambitious climate targets until the cost for regional communities is revealed.
The Deputy PM is demanding to see more detail about the economic impacts of signing up Australia to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 before backing the target.
That’s despite a major international climate report card warning the planet is poised to be 1.5 degree warmer, compared with pre-industrial levels, by early next decade.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts more frequent and ferocious fires, floods, droughts, and accelerated sea level rise because of human-induced climate change.
Mr Joyce said he understood the emotion, and to some extent the moral argument, around more action.
But the Nationals leader said experts, including CSIRO, needed to be up front about the cost climate action would have.
“You’re making an answer to the equation without actually telling the people the numbers that got there,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“We don’t believe in legislating until we have a clear understanding of exactly where the costs are. Otherwise you just have an open book.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged Australia will update its 2030 emissions projections at the UN climate change conference in November.
The government wants to achieve net zero emissions as quickly as possible and preferably by mid-century.
But international pressure is rising ahead of the meeting in Glasgow, with Australia seen as a global laggard on climate action.
Mr Morrison is sticking to the government’s “technology not taxes” manta to insist a global effort can counter the catastrophic effect of a warmer climate.
Independent MP Helen Haines, who represents a rural electorate in north-east Victoria, has urged the government to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
“Regional communities are already carrying this burden – drought, bushfires, floods and future trade costs,” she told parliament.
“But the regions are smart and ready to seize new opportunities. Opportunities like community-owned renewable energy.”
More than 130 countries, along with major multinational companies including financial institutions, have backed a net zero 2050 target.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government expected the rest of the world, including countries such as China, to accelerate its efforts.
“When we make a commitment, we have to be honest with the Australian public, not just make a platitude, but make a fair dinkum commitment,” he told the ABC.