Nationals demand 'respect' on climate plan

Georgie MooreAAP
Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie says the current debate is about regions, not climate change.
Camera IconNationals Senator Bridget McKenzie says the current debate is about regions, not climate change. Credit: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been urged to put regional communities at the centre of his plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Morrison was meeting with cabinet colleagues on Wednesday afternoon to thrash out the final details of his "new energy economy" plan, which would set a 2050 target and update the target of cutting emissions to 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

However, a cabinet-approved plan will need to run the gauntlet of a Nationals partyroom meeting scheduled for Sunday afternoon, just ahead of a two-week parliamentary sitting and the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow later in the month.

Speaking before the meeting, cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie demanded the Nationals be "respected as the second party of government" in negotiations where calls for agriculture and resources sector concessions have been a sticking point.

"This actual debate isn't about climate change, it's about regions," Senator McKenzie told ABC radio.

"We haven't supported anything that has been put before this parliament previously because it hasn't been right for the regions."

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has seen the detail of the plan and indicated the junior coalition partner wouldn't simply roll over.

"(Deputy Prime Minister) Barnaby Joyce won't be accepting any deal unless the National Party party room accepts it. No individual will make a determination of that. We are a party room of 21," he told Sky News.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor maintained the coalition would stick by Australia's resources sector while talking up rural and regional opportunities for carbon abatement.

"You have to make sure that you're abating (emissions), that you're carrying them in your soil, that you're sequestering them under the ground so those industries can continue to have a great future," he told 2GB.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley emphasised net zero provided opportunities for regional Australia.

"I don't get a sense of feeling worried or threatened around me, and I feel that I know my communities very well," she told ABC radio.

"I want us to be heading to net zero and doing it with confidence and actually seizing the opportunities that it provides."

The Morrison government has so far only expressed a "preference" for a target of net zero by 2050.

But other countries and business and industry groups have been pressing for a strong commitment from Australia ahead of COP26.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has committed his party to legislating a net zero by 2050 target and raising the existing 2030 target, which he says has the ability to create jobs while cutting emissions.

He questioned the Liberal-National coalition's commitment to climate action.

"Angus Taylor has been someone who is going around like Chicken Little saying that the sky would fall with net zero emissions by 2050," Mr Albanese said.

"You can't run ... year after year, a scare campaign, and then at the last minute go, 'Oh, I just noticed that the whole world has moved past us, that we're losing the advantage that we had'."

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