The federal government is promising that workers in the resources and heavy manufacturing sectors have a bright future ahead, as senior figures gather to consider how Australia will commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
- The plan will be considered by the Liberal and National party rooms separately, then at a joint meeting next week
- Energy Minister Angus Taylor says adopting the target won’t hurt industries like mining
- Some senior Nationals are demanding more detail about how net zero will impact regional communities
A draft plan to meet the target, and possibly an interim 2030 target as well, is being put to Cabinet today.
The plan has to then go through the Liberal and Nationals party rooms separately, and a joint meeting of the party rooms next week, before it is formally adopted.
After spending years campaigning against setting a net zero target, government ministers are now preparing to sell a different message.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor told Nine Radio this morning a new target would not spell the end of emissions-intensive industries.
“We will always stand up for our traditional industries in agriculture, resources, heavy manufacturing, our regions,” he said.
“Those industries have been my life, and they’re absolutely central to what we believe in as a government, so I can tell you we won’t be sacrificing those.
“We do have to bring down our emissions, and we can, and the important point here [is] to get to net zero, you don’t have to eliminate all your emissions, you have to make sure that you’re abating them.”
Asked for his message to those currently employed in the coal, oil and gas industries, Mr Taylor sought to reassure them.
“I think those industries have a great future,” he said.
Nationals minister doubts regional boom
Senior figures in both the Liberal and National parties have been openly debating the merits of a net zero by 2050 target in recent weeks.
A fortnight ago Regionalisation Minister Bridget McKenzie wrote an opinion piece accusing colleagues of “vacuousness over values” in pushing a target without a detailed plan to get there.
Senator McKenzie has now seen parts of the draft plan going to Cabinet today, and is continuing to raise concerns over what the target might mean for regional communities.
She said she was yet to see evidence of long-term jobs in projects like solar farms, to match those created by the resources sector.
“I’m sorry, we want to see the detail.”
National Party figures have floated ideas like adding a clause to any agreement to allow the government to “pause” progress on emissions reduction if regional areas are being negatively impacted.
Another suggestion was a $250 billion government loan facility for the mining sector as a “lender of last resort”.
Senator McKenzie said the Nationals would discuss all those ideas within their party room on Sunday before arriving at a final position.
“I’m very confident, knowing the party as I do, that there’ll be other great suggestions on how to support the regions on Sunday,” she said.
“So until I hear those, we’re not signing up to anything.”
Labor labels discussions a ‘pantomime’
The federal opposition expects the government will adopt net zero by 2050, but argues it must go further.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the ructions between the Liberals and Nationals were not to be taken seriously.
“Net zero by 2050 is a no-brainer, and what we have is a bit of a pantomime from the government on whether they’ll get there or not,” he said.
“What are they doing about future plans?”
The opposition suggests the government has to not just commit to net zero by 2050, but legislate the target, which is existing Labor policy.
It says the government must also increase its 2030 target.
Labor took a policy of reducing emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 to the last federal election, but later dumped it.
It will wait until after the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow to commit to a new medium-term target of its own.