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Dutton’s surprise climate policy proves he ‘can’t be taken seriously’, Albanese says
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Dutton’s surprise climate policy proves he ‘can’t be taken seriously’, Albanese says

Anthony Albanese says Peter Dutton has forfeited his claim to the prime ministership because refusing to name a short-term emissions reduction target shows he is not serious about addressing climate change.

Some Liberal MPs were taken by surprise when Dutton confirmed the opposition would not name a 2030 climate target until after the next election. Moderate Liberals have sought to downplay the significance of the announcement, stressing the party remains committed to net zero by 2050 amid concerns it may hurt the Coalition in seats held by, or under threat from, climate-focused “teal” independents.

In a podcast interview with Guardian Australia, Albanese said Dutton’s refusal to commit the Coalition to any 2030 emissions reduction target before the next election proved he was not serious about governing.

“It is just not a serious policy and if you don’t have a serious policy on energy and climate then you can’t be taken seriously as the alternative prime minister of Australia,” Albanese said.

“The point of having a target was to have ambition and try to meet it.”

He claimed Dutton “leads a divided party and he’s a divisive leader”.

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The latest Coalition discussion on energy and climate goals has again exposed a schism between rural or regional Nationals and Liberals, and more moderate city-dwelling Liberal colleagues. Bridget Archer, often outspoken against her party’s own decisions, called the scrapping of targets a “regressive” step that should be put to voters before the election.

The shadow assistant minister for housing, Andrew Bragg, told Sky News it was not “a particularly new policy”, saying the Coalition had foreshadowed the plan for some time, and stressed a commitment to the Paris agreement. Menzies MP Keith Wolahan told the ABC the opposition was seeking to be “transparent” with the public about the difficulty of the energy transition.

The Paris agreement, aimed at limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C, requires its almost 200 signatory nations to set targets and strive to meet them. While falling short of the targets does not automatically force a country out, backsliding by lowering the target is not permitted.

It’s understood the weekend newspaper headlines confirming Dutton would scrap Labor’s 2030 target took some by surprise, and that the issue hadn’t been discussed in the wider Liberal party room – although Dutton said on Wednesday the stance had gone through shadow cabinet.

Shadow ministers Ted O’Brien and David Coleman appeared on weekend TV to say Australia remained committed to Paris, but Dutton did not appear publicly until Tuesday, when he said his party would not confirm a 2030 target unless it won government.

Other Coalition members noted the Coalition opposition in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland had backed or not opposed the 2030 targets set by the Labor governments in those states.

Several Liberal members said they could understand Dutton’s reticence to name a 2030 target, noting the potential for the Coalition to be exposed to the same kind of scepticism they are currently mounting against Labor, but said it created a “difficult” situation – especially in urban seats.

The situation is a “gift” to teal MPs and potential challengers, several Liberals admitted, while others maintained the next election would hinge on cost of living and energy prices rather than global climate targets.

Climate 200, the fundraising vehicle that supported numerous independent challenges in 2022, is running a donation drive on the back of the Liberal policy, emailing supporters to seek funds to “stop Dutton derailing global climate progress.”

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“Every seat we can add to the pro-climate crossbench is another line of defence for the Paris agreement,” Climate 200 executive director Byron Fay wrote.

Independent MPs including Allegra Spender, Zoe Daniel, Monique Ryan and Sophie Scamps have all publicly slammed Dutton’s announcement; Spender will hold a public event next week in her electorate to discuss “Dutton’s climate disaster”.

Speaking to Guardian Australia, Albanese dismissed Dutton’s plan to introduce nuclear power as scaremongering.

“It’s not really an attempt at an alternative policy,” he said. “It’s just an attempt to create fear.”

But the prime minister acknowledged sections of the community were also anxious about the transition to renewable energy. The government’s target of a 43% cut on 2005-level emissions by 2030 involves drawing 82% of energy from renewables by the same deadline.

“We certainly need to make sure that the community comes with us on the journey on climate change.”

Albanese suggested that in shunning interim targets while claiming to still be committed to the Paris climate agreement — which requires interim targets — Dutton was only trying to unify the Coalition, not solve the climate crisis.

“This requires a whole of government approach but a whole of society approach as well, which is why the business community had been so strong in saying they want that investment certainty,” he said. “And Peter Dutton’s plan is to rip all of that up, start again, go back to the climate wars that were really a civil war within the Liberal and National parties.”

Source: theguardian.com