Aussie PM Morrison drops threat to skip UN climate summit

SYDNEY (AFP, REUTERS) – Australia’s prime minister on Friday (Oct 15) withdrew a threat to skip next month’s landmark UN climate summit, describing the meeting as “an important event”.

“I confirmed my attendance at the Glasgow Summit, which I’m looking forward to attending,” Mr Scott Morrison told journalists. “The government will be finalising its position to take to the summit. We’re working through those issues.”

Under mounting pressure to adopt more ambitious climate targets, the conservative leader had suggested he would not join other heads of government in Scotland’s largest city.

His comments angered climate activists and were seen as a direct diplomatic snub to the UK, a close ally and the summit host.

In a rare foray into politics, Britain’s Prince Charles expressed surprise at Mr Morrison’s reluctance and said it would be a “disaster” if leaders did not take firm action to arrest climate change.

Widely seen as a climate laggard, Australia is one of the world’s largest coal and gas exporters and has long resisted adopting a carbon-neutral target.

While Mr Morrison has inched toward setting a target date of 2050 for that goal, he has refused to make the target binding and has yet to commit to more meaningful 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Mr Morrison has said Australia wanted to achieve net zero “as soon as possible and preferably by 2050” and it expects to beat its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2030.

The 12-day meeting in Scotland will be the biggest climate conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015, and is seen as a crucial step in setting worldwide emissions targets to slow global warming.

Mr Morrison is engaged in negotiations with the junior partner in his coalition government, the rural-based National party, about strengthening climate targets.

The National party, which is concerned about the impact of carbon targets on farming and coal mining, will meet on Sunday to discuss Mr Morrison’s plan.

Mr Morrison must face a general election by May 2022 and he needs to appease moderates in his Liberal Party pressing for climate action, while at the same time retaining support of the National party.

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