UK pushes Australian PM on climate targets
Scott Morrison has been forced to defend his record on climate change after being challenged by the British prime minister.
Boris Johnson urged the prime minister to take bold action on climate change during a phone call in which he stressed the need for ambitious targets to reach net zero emissions.
Australia's major trading partners Japan, China and the European Union are all moving towards net zero emissions.
The United Kingdom has set a goal of reaching net zero by 2050 but Australia is reluctant to adopt the target.
Mr Morrison said the key focus of his discussion with the British leader was pursuing a free trade agreement as quickly as possible.
But he is refusing to budge on climate change, saying Australia alone will set its targets.
"Our policies won't be set in the United Kingdom, they won't be set in Brussels, they won't be set in any part of the world other than here," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
The prime minister said Mr Johnson understood this position, given his own experience with Brexit.
"One thing the British prime minister and I agree on is that achieving emissions reductions shouldn't come at the cost of jobs in Australia or the UK," Mr Morrison said.
Labor senator Penny Wong accused the government of airbrushing the climate change conversation in an official readout of the telephone call.
Senator Wong grilled Foreign Minister Marise Payne about the discrepancies during a Senate estimates hearing.
"There's no reference to net zero, there's no reference to bold action and there's no reference to ambitious targets," she said.
"They say different things. One talks about net zero and one completely ignores it.
"Mr Johnson talks about the importance of net zero. That somehow is airbrushed from Mr Morrison's readout. Do we just pretend they didn't raise it?"
Senator Payne said the British version of the telephone call didn't mention the leaders discussed the coronavirus response.
"But I'm not about to suggest that means prime minister Johnson's readout is somehow not adequate or not an honest representation," she said.
Senator Wong suggested the prime minister's office excluded references to the issue because the government was embarrassed about being internationally isolated on the issue.
NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean, a Liberal MP pushing for net zero by 2050, said it should not be a partisan issue.
Mr Kean argued if Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the US presidential election, 70 per cent of Australia's trading partners would be committed to hitting net zero emissions by 2050.
© AAP 2020