‘Divergent views’ expressed as Nationals seek further climate plan detail

Barnaby Joyce says the Nationals will not be held hostage over climate change policy.

Barnaby Joyce says the Nationals will not be held hostage over climate change policy. Photo: AAP

The Nationals have asked for more details on a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, following a passionate four-hour meeting in Canberra.

Nationals members met on Sunday to hear from Energy Minister Angus Taylor on the plan, which will go to a Liberals party room meeting on Monday and all government members on Tuesday, and then discuss it.

Mr Taylor said after the briefing it had been a “constructive and collegiate discussion about the future of our regions, traditional industries and the jobs and communities that rely on them”.

“There was a strong joint commitment to policies that strengthen our regions, not weaken them,” Mr Taylor said.

“It was also clear that there was absolutely no appetite for policies that impact jobs or add to the cost of living through an explicit carbon tax or a sneaky carbon tax.”

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud said after the meeting there had been “divergent views” expressed.

“There were still some more questions that need to be answered,” he told Sky News.

“There will be no agreement until such time we get comfort … I don’t think it would be responsible (to agree immediately), I think it would be reckless.”

He said supporting a more ambitious emissions target would be one of the biggest decisions his party had ever made and he and colleagues would not be rushed into it.

But in a bid to ease concerns in regional areas, he said the coal industry would continue in Australia well into the 2050s.

“The world isn’t going to transition out of coal-fired power stations in a hurry. We are going to keep digging coal out and we are going to keep exporting,” he said, adding that carbon capture and storage would be crucial.

Mr Littleproud said there was strong support within the Nationals for nuclear power to reduce emissions, but to achieve it would require “an environment for a mature conversation”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping to go to the Glasgow talks which start later this month with a credible net-zero plan that could also include changes to the 2030 target.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said before the meeting his party room was “highly unlikely” to support raising the government’s medium-range target, which is currently set at reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

Nationals senator and former minister Matt Canavan wrote in an online article on Sunday the government stood on a precipice.

“Will we stand by our principles and the people that gave up their free time and money to support us?” he wrote, citing past elections where the Coalition campaigned against tougher climate action.

“Or will we become the conservative version of Kevin Rudd, an empty, poll-driven kite, that blows with the wind rather than stands against it when it is right to do so?”

He described net zero as a “corporate buzzword” and questioned the reliance on hydrogen power to achieve big emissions cuts.

“The prime minister may very well believe in miracles, but I don’t think we should be gambling people’s jobs based on the existence of them.”

Many Coalition MPs face pressure in their seats ahead of the federal election, due by May, from independents, Greens and Labor candidates seeking more ambitious climate action.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said a global shift was occurring and the government was confident of landing “strong commitments and strong plans” to take to Glasgow.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the plan would only be credible if the government legislated its targets.


Topics: Nationals
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