Australia and UK governments at odds over why key climate targets were stripped


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Australia and the United Kingdom were today at odds over why key climate targets were stripped out of the trade deal being negotiated between the two countries.

Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, confirmed the story reported by Sky News yesterday and told a press conference trade agreements were the wrong place for climate targets.

He was being asked about the Sky News revelation that British ministers had bowed to pressure from their Australian counterparts to remove temperature targets from the deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at 10 Downing Street, London, ahead of a meeting to formally announce a trade deal with the UK. It will be the UK's first trade deal negotiated fully since leaving the European Union. . Picture date: Tuesday June 15, 2021.
Both the Australian and UK governments have played down the significance of a leaked email which reveals ministers agreed to drop specific climate change temperature targets

In a press conference, Mr Morrison said the UK-Australia deal was about trade.

“It wasn’t a climate agreement, it was a trade agreement. And I do trade agreements, and in trade agreements, I deal with trade issues. In climate agreements, I deal with climate issues. We’re pursuing agreements on clean energy technology with a vast number of countries, and we’ll have agreements about that,” he said.

Mr Morrison said that other countries should trust Australia to abide by its climate commitments.

“The key agreement we’ve made is when we signed up to Paris and the commitments that we made to achieve. Those commitments are clear. And we’ll not only meet them, we’ll beat them just like we did Kyoto.”

Mr Morrison’s explanation is at odds with the UK government justification.

Ministers are arguing that there are already a lot of environmental safeguards in the UK-Australia trade deal, and suggest that the text upholds the highest standards and implicitly commits Australia to the Paris deal.

Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott Morrison. Pic: Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street
In a press conference, Mr Morrison said the UK-Australia deal was about trade. Pic: Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street

A UK government spokesperson said yesterday: “Our ambitious trade deal with Australia will include a substantive article on climate change which reaffirms both parties’ commitments to the Paris Agreement and achieving its goals, including limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

“Any suggestion the deal won’t sign up to these vital commitments is completely untrue.

“The UK’s climate change and environment policies are some of the most ambitious in the world, reflecting our commitment as the first major economy to pass new laws for net zero emissions by 2050.”

An Australian government minister said this week coal would continue to be a major contributor to Australia’s economy well beyond 2030, given growth in global demand.

Australia’s heavy reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita, but its conservative government has steadfastly backed fossil fuel industries, saying tougher action on emissions would cost jobs.

Australia’s latest export figures show “the reports of coal’s…

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