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Turnbull urges Australia to commit to zero net emissions or pay a ‘heavy price’

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Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says that Australia must set more ambitious climate targets to retain international credibility, trade relations and climate protection.

“Australia really has to get on board,” said Mr Turnbull at the AFR energy and climate summit on Tuesday.

“If we don’t we will pay a heavy price for this, believe me, in international trade.

“We are kidding ourselves to think the Europeans will not have climate as one element in the Australia-Europe free trade agreement, absolutely kidding ourselves, and I can see the Americans making that condition of trade agreements right around the world.

“Basically, what Scott’s got to do now is pivot, or dismount – whatever you want to call it. Whether it’s done elegantly or not doesn’t really matter, as long as he does it.”

Mr Turnbull urged the Government to have “high ambition” and follow examples from China, Japan, Korea, Britain and Europe in setting net zero emission targets.

Australia currently aims to cut 2005 emission levels by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030.

Mr Turnbull instead argues for net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

“It’s vital for our energy policy, our climate future and our credibility internationally. What Scott’s got to do is pivot.”

Moreover, Mr Turnbull expressed exasperation at the Government’s “gas-led recovery” for ignoring evidence from the Australian Energy Market Operator and the Grattan Institute that shows gas is more expensive than other energy alternatives.

“We’ve got to get real here,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We know that we need urgently to cut our emissions and we also know that the cheapest form of generation is from variable renewables – wind and solar – and it’s getting cheaper. The cost of storage in terms of batteries is getting cheaper and the opportunities of longer-term storage with pumped hydro are numerous.”

Mr Turnbull also blasted Mr Morrison for ingratiating himself with Donald Trump, which has threatened to turn Australia into a “Trump-lite refuge.”

“He probably over-channeled Trump. He was clearly dazzled and duchessed by Trump and went full-in with that in a number of areas … but the reality now is all of our major trading partners have got a net zero target [and] the Biden administration will return to the climate fray with real enthusiasm,” said Mr Turnbull.

Yesterday, US President-elect Joe Biden appointed John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate. Mr Kerry’s appointment is a strong contrast to Donald Trump’s environment policy, which was underscored by climate change denialism and refusals to cooperate in international bodies.

“The Trump era is over, at least for four years, and we don’t want to be looking like a sort of a Trump-lite refuge in the southern hemisphere,” said Mr Turnbull.


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Ann Wen
Ann is a journalist at Dynamic Business with a background in commercial law and research. She is interested in SME tax law, public policy and Australian innovation.