PM's net zero will underwhelm summit: ACF

The coalition's squabbling over emissions targets won't have gone unnoticed by world leaders.
The coalition's squabbling over emissions targets won't have gone unnoticed by world leaders.

Australians are still waiting to hear what promises Prime Minister Scott Morrison will take to a pivotal climate change summit due to start in Glasgow in just eight days.

After a week of talks that began last Sunday when Energy Minister Angus Taylor sat down with the Nationals, the junior coalition party is yet to back the Liberals' plan to commit Australia to net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Morrison is ultimately expected to get what he wants in exchange for meeting unspecified National Party demands he says revolve around the "thematics" of looking after regional Australia.

But Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says a deal on net zero emissions by mid-century "is not done by a long shot".

The Nationals will meet again on Sunday, when they are expected to receive the prime minister's response to their wishlist for regional centres dependent on fossil fuel industries.

But one thing is clear, even with a nod from the Nats, this week's squabbling won't have gone unnoticed by world leaders who've already told Australia it should be promising much more than net zero by 2050 at Glasgow's COP26 summit.

Perhaps the most illustrative quote of the difficult week that was came from Nationals minister Bridget McKenzie who warned on Wednesday of "ugly" consequences if the prime minister proceeded without the backing her party.

Mr Joyce rounded out the week on Friday by telling the national broadcaster: "If we don't have coal mines continuing on ... we don't have money for such things as the ABC and hospitals and roads."

When asked if he believed the world could be headed for catastrophic climate change he said:

"I think that anthropomorphic climate change is a factor. When you say catastrophic, I don't believe it's in the interests of everybody to make statements so grand that we terrify everybody."

The COP26 climate summit, under the presidency of the UK, begins on October 31 with four headline objectives.

Chief among them is to ensure the world achieves net zero emissions by 2050 and crucially, between now and then, take enough action to keep the Paris pact ambition of limiting warming to 1.5C "within reach".

To do that countries have been urged to come to Glasgow "with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero" by mid-century.

And if they are to achieve them, countries have been told they must accelerate the phase-out of coal, curtail deforestation, hasten the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

The prime minister has already ruled out formally increasing Australia's existing pledge to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But he's expected to offer Glasgow an update on projections indicating Australia will achieve cuts of 32 per cent or higher.

Australian Conservation Foundation climate campaigner Suzanne Harter says all the global assessments that have looked at targets have deemed Australia's 2030 ambitions entirely inadequate.

"The reason is it is in line with over 3C of warming. So that's catastrophic," she said.

"If they were to increase in the range of 30 to 38 per cent, that is an improvement but it's still inadequate. In a perfect world, based on the science, we would say a 75 per cent reduction by 2030.

"That's what you need to be genuinely rolled-gold consistent with 1.5C."

She says Mr Morrison can expected a muted, brief pat on the back in Glasgow if he arrives with a net zero by 2050 pledge but nothing that will see Australia match the roughly 50 per cent cuts promised by trading partners by 2030.

"There'll be one little bit of 'ok, we're glad you got there on net zero'. But it's no longer we just need to get to net zero by 2050.

"If you look at COP's topline goals, they are saying long term targets are important but we also need to see short term targets ... 1.5C is the ultimate goal and everything needs to be focused, missile-like, at that."

Australian Associated Press