Australia's PM reluctant to commit to medium-term climate goals: The Australian

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives at Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan, November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s government is in no rush to sign up to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, although it recognizes the importance of working toward that goal, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an interview published on Saturday.

Morrison’s conservative government, in a surprise change of policy last month, said it would achieve its 2030 carbon emissions pledge under the Paris climate agreement without counting carbon credits from over-achieving on its previous climate targets.

But in the interview with The Australian newspaper, Morrison said he will not take a new 2030 or 2035 emissions reduction target to a key United Nations climate conference in Glasgow in November.

“It is about whether you can produce hydrogen at the right cost, it is about whether (carbon capture and storage) can be done at the right cost, it is whether we can produce low emissions steel and aluminum at the right cost,” the newspaper quoted Morrison as saying.

“That is how you actually get to net zero. You don’t get there by just having some commitment. That is where the discussion has to go, and I think the (U.S. President Joe) Biden administration provides an opportunity to really pursue that with some enthusiasm.”

Australia’s emissions are now projected to be 29% below 2005 levels by 2030, compared with its Paris accord target of cutting carbon emissions by between 26% and 28%, based on recent growth in renewable energy and what could be achieved under an A$18 billion ($14 billion) technology investment plan the government outlined in September.

“We all want to get there,” Morrison said. “It is not about the politics anymore, it is about the technology.”

He added that the timeline to commit to a zero-net-emissions target will depend on “where the science is at and where our assessment is based on the technologies”.

($1 = 1.2960 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Lidia; Editing by William Mallard