Barnaby Joyce needs more time. And apparently addressing climate change in Australia really is all about him.
Emerging from a failed Nationals party room discussion on whether to agree to a net-zero emissions target, Joyce declared that “we won’t be held hostage to what other people wish”, and that the Coalition may never come to a united agreement on such a target.
Meanwhile, his deputy leader David Littleproud, also requires time, saying the Nationals would take its “time to get it right”.
The four hours The Nationals spent debating the topic on Sunday weren’t enough. Nor were the months that came prior. Or even the eight years, three different prime ministers, and Joyce’s own break from the role as deputy.
But Joyce never had any intention of seeing the party make a swift shift to agreeing to a net-zero target by 2050.
And he certainly won’t be leading the party into supporting an upgrade to the current 2030 target, with Australia pursuing a 26 to 28% cut on 2005 levels by 2030. Upgrading this target would help bring us closer to ambitions outlined by the US, the UK, the European Union and others, and may help improve our reputation and status on climate worldwide.
Given we’re actually on track to meet current commitments (with, as Bill Hare writes, the Morrison Government barely lifting a finger) further ambitions are actually well within reach.
But in Australia, there are big egos to tame and a yet as unknown price to pay — mostly between men — on ever signing the country up to such a target.
Now it’s up to a debate between the Nationals and the Liberals on Monday afternoon to determine if Australia will make that minimal 2050 agreement. And we can expect significant concessions to be made to the Nationals, reportedly a deal worth “tens of Billions” and whatever other demands Joyce puts up for saying yes to the target.
But even on the Liberal side of the fence, the “hostage” accusations are in play, if not a little more subtle.
It was only on Friday that Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed to finally attend the international climate talks, after citing concerns about “spending a lot of time in quarantine”, raising the ire of international leaders as well as Prince Charles and The Queen.
And Energy Minister Angus Taylor also looks set to further sabotage efforts on agreements. Having briefed the Nationals party room prior to Sunday’s meeting, he released a press release on the “constructive” discussion, stating that: “It was clear there was absolutely no appetite for policies that impact jobs or add to cost of living through an explicit carbon tax or a sneaky carbon tax. Which we won’t be doing.”
Taylor’s comments on costs go against what Australia’s top economists say, with eight in ten claiming that Australia’s national economy will benefit from a net-zero emissions commitment. The Business Council of Australia has also (finally) backed a 2050 net-zero commitment, while a survey of 500 of the largest businesses in Australia finds that two-thirds don’t believe Australia is doing enough on climate change.
Asked about a change to the 2030 strategy, Joyce could barely manage an answer. He shared his “appraisal” that there would be no chance of a change. He said, “I’ might get knocked over but I’m trying to be honest with you give you an appraisal of where I see other people.”
Littleproud simply said that the revised 2030 target was “not on the table”.
Now we await Joyce’s number and demands on the 2050 target. The hostage-taker, claiming to be the hostage.