Australia’s leader Scott Morrison has defied a call within his own party to reform policies on climate change following devastating bushfires, vowing he would not do anything that would “wipe out” his nation’s resources industries.
The prime minister’s comments on Monday, which follow an unprecedented crisis in which fires have burnt millions of hectares and killed an estimated 1bn animals, cast doubt over whether his government will make major changes to climate change policies after the fires.
“We are dealing with our climate policies in the same way as we took them to the election. We will meet and beat our emission reduction targets,” Mr Morrison told Australia’s ABC radio on Monday. “I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to put a carbon tax on people, I’m not going to increase their electricity prices and their costs of living, and I’m not going to wipe out resource industries.”
Australia contributes 1.3 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions but researchers argue the figure rises to 4 per cent if emissions from its fossil fuel exports are included in that calculation.
Australia is the biggest coal exporter globally and coal was Australia’s most valuable export in 2018.
Parts of the ruling Liberal and National party coalition attribute their 2019 election win to their championing of the coal industry in the northern state of Queensland, where a large coal mine has been proposed.
Despite criticism that Mr Morrison went on holiday in Hawaii during the fires, analysts do not believe the crisis has left him vulnerable to a political challenge from within his own party. He only recently won re-election and the party has altered internal rules to make changing its leader more difficult.
But recent opinion surveys show Australians, including Liberal voters, are increasingly concerned about climate change.
The prime minister’s comments on Monday were in response to a statement from fellow Liberal party member Matt Kean, the environment minister of New South Wales, one of the states hardest hit by the disaster.
Mr Kean said on Sunday a group of federal MPs, including some in Mr Morrison’s cabinet, believed the prime minister needed to introduce more policies to reduce Australia’s emissions.
Australia has pledged to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. Latest Australian government projections state that the country’s emissions will decline, but mainly due to people installing rooftop solar panels on their homes as well as state, rather than federal, governments setting their own emission reduction targets..
This would mainly be due to an increase in members of the general public installing rooftop solar panels on their homes as well as state, rather than federal, governments setting their own emission reduction targets.
The Australian Open, tennis’ season opening Grand Slam, got under way in Melbourne on Monday with relatively clean air conditions after bushfire smoke hampered the lead-up to the event last week.