Prime Minister Scott Morrison won't set a new emissions target for Australia at a major global leaders summit on Thursday night, defying international pressure to increase the country's climate action ambition.
Hours before his scheduled address to Joe Biden's virtual climate summit, Mr Morrison confirmed the goal of reaching net zero emissions "as soon as possible, preferably by 2050" remained unchanged.
Mr Morrison faced questions after senior Biden administration officials told reporters in a pre-summit briefing that it would be "insufficient" for Australia to continue on its current trajectory and hope it would reach net zero by 2050.
"At the moment, I think that our colleagues in Australia recognise that there's going to have to be a shift," the officials said.
Mr Morrison pushed back at those statements, saying the path to net zero was "not linear" and anyone who thought it was "doesn't get it".
He defended the country's record on emissions reduction and proudly declared Australia could be a global leader in using technology to fight climate change.
"When is not the question anymore. How is the question," he said at Parliament House.
"Unless you're committed and committed to working together with developing or developed countries, to put in place the commercial technology that achieves net zero, then these are just media statements."
Mr Biden has convened a meeting of 40 world leaders in an attempt to encourage stronger and faster action on climate change.
The US President will use the summit to unveil an "ambitious" new 2030 emissions reduction target, which will reportedly be a commitment to slash emissions by 50 per cent from 2005 levels, and has encouraged other nations to announce their own new goals.
Mr Morrison had throughout this week resisted domestic and international pressure to set a new climate action target for Australia, restating the government's goal of achieving net zero emissions "as soon as possible, preferably by 2050".
The Prime Minister has used the lead up to the summit to pledge more than $1 billion in funding for climate-related projects, targeting the types of technology - including hydrogen and carbon capture and storage - which he believes will allow Australia to achieve its goal.
"We are not going to meet our climate change targets through punishing taxes," Mr Morrison said in a speech on Monday.
"I am not going to tax our industries off the planet. We are going to meet our ambitions with the smartest minds, the best technology and the animal spirits of our business community."
Mr Morrison has not ruled out setting new targets later this year.
New Australia Institute research published ahead of the summit showed that if Australia matched the expected US' 2030 commitment it would prevent about 875 million tonnes of emissions being released into the atmosphere - the equivalent of two years' worth.
"The likely halving of emissions by 2030 is a big step for the Biden administration to make," the progressive thinktank's Richie Merzian said.
"Australia will be left behind if it does not commit to a similar target."
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The story 'When is not the question anymore': Morrison resists pressure to set new climate target first appeared on The Canberra Times.