Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, under pressure to step up the country's efforts to cut carbon emissions, has yet to decide whether he will travel to Glasgow, Scotland, to meet other world leaders for a critical climate meeting in November.
Australia, the highest per capita carbon emitter among the world's richest nations, has so far refused to endorse a net zero emissions by 2050 target or double its emissions-cutting target for 2030 to match pledges by the EU, the US, Britain and Japan.
Foreign minister Marise Payne said on Monday that Australia had yet to decide who would attend the UN climate summit in Glasgow – called Cop26 – but would first firm up a long-awaited plan to cut emissions.
“One thing we are absolutely committed to, as we have said, is setting out our long-term emissions reduction plan prior to the COP, and that is what we’re focused on as a government,” Ms Payne told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.
“Australia will be strongly represented at the conference no matter by which senior Australian representative, and our commitment is very clear.”
Mr Morrison has just returned from Washington, where, amid security and climate talks, he struck an emissions-cutting deal with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi focused on the supply of hydrogen and cheap solar technology.
“That’s what gets you to net zero, because unless we can put developing countries and developed countries on the path to net zero, well, the world just gets hotter,” Mr Morrison told US CBS News programme Face the Nation.
Mr Morrison has said Australia “wants to achieve net zero as soon as possible and preferably by 2050”, and that the country expects to beat its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Coal and gas are Australia’s second and third largest exports, making any move to curb fossil fuel-use challenging for the country’s politicians.
Facing an election by May 2022, Morrison needs to appease moderates in his Liberal Party pressing for more climate action but at the same time needs support from the rural partner in the ruling coalition, the Nationals, which is concerned about the impact of tougher carbon targets on farming and coal mining.
"This is a very vexed issue," Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said on ABC TV.