ALP poised to abandon carbon plan
Labor’s contentious 2030 climate target to cut emissions by 45 per cent could be scrapped, amid concerns an Albanese government would not have time to achieve such a reduction if elected at the next poll, due in 2022.
As Labor leaders engage in a vigorous public debate over the party’s policy platform in the wake of the shock election loss in May, members of Anthony Albanese’s parliamentary team have told The Australian that consideration is being given to scrapping the 45 per cent target to focus on a net zero pollution target for 2050.
Opposition assistant climate change spokesman Pat Conroy said Labor’s net zero emissions target was more important than its 2030 target.
“Labor is evaluating all its policies and we need to make sure that we adopt a trajectory that delivers net zero emissions by 2050,” Mr Conroy said. “That has to be the overriding objective.”
Some Labor MPs said the message of “zero net emissions by 2050” would be clearer than the 45 per cent target, while maintaining the party’s climate change credentials.
The Opposition Leader and Labor’s climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler have declared there must be changes to the party’s platform.
Labor was punished at the May election in regional and coalmining seats, particularly in Queensland and Tasmania, as frontbenchers equivocated on Adani’s Carmichael mine and then leader Bill Shorten was unable to cost his climate change policies.
There is a growing belief among some Labor MPs that hitting a 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 would be harder if the party was elected in 2022 than it would have been if it won office in May.
Mr Conroy said Labor had not finalised whether it would junk its 45 per cent target but said any new target for 2030 would need to be higher than the government’s 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels.
“What I can say categorically is the government’s 26 per cent target by 2030 is grossly inadequate,’’ he said.
“We need to lift that target for 2030 and arrive at a target consistent with net zero emissions by 2050. Achieving an adequate target by 2030 will be difficult, given emissions are rising every year under this government.
“The goal has to be long-term decarbonation of the economy and so the 2050 target is obviously the key objective. To be carbonneutral by 2050 is essential to Australia and we need to adopt a trajectory … consistent with that.”
After Mr Shorten’s struggle during the election campaign to articulate the cost of countering climate change, details on how Labor would achieve its targets
are expected to be more ambiguous at the next election.
Some MPs believe proposals should only be finalised if the party wins government. Labor is aware of fears the high targets sparked about job losses in mining and other industries.
Mr Conroy’s comments followed Mr Butler’s calling for a ruthless and unsparing review of the party’s policies, including on climate change and energy.
Mr Butler said all of Labor’s election policies were under review but the party was “deeply committed” to action on climate change and the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global warming to well below 2C, to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change for future generations.
This was “unlike the Morrison government, which remains committed to ignoring growing calls from the majority of Australians for real action on climate change”.
“The government’s own data shows carbon emissions, under the Liberals’ inadequate climate policies, have been rising ever since 2014 and will continue rising all the way to 2030,” he said.
Opposition agriculture and resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, who suffered a 9.48 per cent two-candidate-preferred swing against him in his NSW mining electorate of Hunter, said Labor had to redouble its efforts on mitigation and adaptation to help farmers.
“We’ve lost seven, near eight years now, of opportunity to take action both in mitigation and adaptation, and sadly we can’t get that time back,” he told the ABC.
“Now we need to redouble our focus, redouble our efforts on those four points I made: mitigation, or in other words climate change action; adaptation, things like regenerative farming, changing the practices of both farmers and consumers more generally.”
Revelations senior Labor MPs are discussing the possibility of abandoning the 45 per cent target come a day after Left MPs Kim Carr and Ged Kearney warned colleagues against being seen to capitulate to government policies.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong fired back, saying any suggestion the party was capitulating was a Greens tactic and must be taken on. The Greens want net zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions “by no later than 2040” and have set a renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2030.
Opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus said the election result had caused “shock right across Australia because of the deep expectation” that Labor would win. “We do have to review the way in which we campaigned, we do have to review the policies we took to the people at the last election,” he told the National Press Club.
“That’s an entirely appropriate process for us to be engaging in.”
Scott Morrison said Australia was doing the “heavy lifting” in setting and meeting its climate targets after investing billions of dollars to exceed the Kyoto 2020 target — to reduce emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels — by 367 million tonnes.
“Plenty of other countries set targets; not many like Australia meet them in the way we meet them,” the Prime Minister said.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese motions for calm during question time in the lower house on Wednesday