Australian ministers say 2030 emission target fixed, will be beaten

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FILE PHOTO: Coal is unloaded onto large piles at the Ulan Coal mines near the central New South Wales rural town of Mudgee

By Lidia Kelly

MELBOURNE – Australia’s 2030 emissions target is fixed, and the government is committed to beating it, several ministers said on Sunday, without saying whether targets would be updated as the recently concluded UN climate summit in Glasgow demanded.

The Glasgow talks ended Saturday with a deal that for the first-time targeted fossil fuels as the key driver of global warming, calling for tougher emissions pledges by 2022, among other things.

“Australia’s 2030 target is fixed and we are committed to meeting and beating it,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a joint statement after the summit ended, adding the government will do “what’s right for rural and regional communities.”

Australia’s current commitment calls for a 26% to 28% reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030.

The country, one of world’s top producers of coal and gas, was named the “colossal fossil” of the UN talks by Climate Action Network activists for “its appalling approach to climate change policy”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison adopted a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but said he would not legislate the goal. He rejected a global pledge, led by the European Union and the United States, to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

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Greg Hunt, Australia’s health minister who was the environment minister in 2013-2016, refused to say on Sunday whether the government will update the target.

“We’ve set our target. But what we’ll continue to do is update our projections,” Hunt said in an interview on the Australian Broadcast Corp’s Insiders programme.

When pressed further, Hunt paraphrased William Shakespeare from his play, “Henry IV”, saying, “I never promised to pay thee, but now that I’m here, I’ll pay thee double’. It means under-promise and over-deliver.”

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)