Fortescue Metals Group’s Andrew Forrest scolds MPs over climate ‘fearmongering’

Andrew Brown and Georgie MooreAAP
Andrew Forrest with Prime Minister  Scott Morrison during his visit to FMG’s Christmas Creek earlier this year.
Camera IconAndrew Forrest with Prime Minister Scott Morrison during his visit to FMG’s Christmas Creek earlier this year. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper/The West Australian

Emissions reduction targets of between 40 and 50 per cent are absolutely necessary for Australia, according to mining magnate Andrew Forrest.

The former Fortescue chief executive also said it would be a “high profile” declaration of where Australia sits on climate change if Prime Minister Scott Morrison does not attend an upcoming Glasgow summit to address the issue.

Mr Forrest on Wednesday outlined billion-dollar plans for green hydrogen production facilities across Australia, including in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania.

Ahead of a final decision on Australia’s net-zero emissions policy by the government, Mr Forrest has hit out at MPs who have criticised such proposals as being detrimental to the economy.

“We need to stop the fearmongering,” he told ABC Radio National on Thursday.

“It might crack a few more votes at the next election, but after that it is seen as fearmongering, when coal starts to subside.”

Much of the criticism of net-zero plans have come from senior Nationals MPs, who have said attempts to reduce emissions would impact on regional areas and jobs.

The Nationals will hold a party room meeting on Sunday to discuss the net-zero plans.

Nationals Senate leader and cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie said before the meeting there would be “no deal unless it is right for the regions”.

Mr Forrest said he had spoken to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Senator McKenzie about the plans for green hydrogen facilities on Wednesday.

“I’m sure they are quite capable of hearing the facts,” he said.

“Economies are going green and they are going to grow the fastest and have the most jobs. If Australia doesn’t do it, that capital will go to countries that will.”

Mr Forrest is set to address the National Press Club on Thursday.

Big business, unions and conservation groups have joined forces in championing the economic benefits of a net-zero economy.

The Business Council of Australia, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Conservation Foundation and WWF Australia believe 395,000 clean energy jobs could be created by 2040.

They are backing an analysis by Accenture looking at what Australia has to gain from exports of battery technology as well as hydrogen, ammonia, critical minerals, steel and aluminium produced or processed using renewables.

It found these markets, combined with a focus on leveraging opportunities to train international students in clean energy-related fields, have the potential to generate $89 billion of gross value added and 395,000 jobs.

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