PM claims Australia will meet Paris target ‘in a canter’ despite emissions climbing

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, but Scott Morrison seized on the silver lining, maintaining Australia would meet its Paris commitment, despite the government having no legislated instrument to help it get there.

Figures released on Friday showed Australia’s emissions increased 1.3% in the year to March 2018, up all sectors – except land use and electricity, where renewable technologies were having an impact on the latter.

The prime minister jumped on the rate of the increase not being as high as in previous years.

“The emissions are at the lowest level in 28 years, and those figures, in particular for the March quarter, were based on some rather stronger LNG production figures for that period,” he told the ABC Insiders program.

“So look, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and I know that plenty of people will leap on that and say ‘you need to do X and Y’ and use those numbers for that purpose, but it means that we’re going to meet Kyoto 2 and we’ll smash that number.

“We smashed Kyoto 1.”

Morrison said Australia would meet its Paris targets “in a canter”, largely based on investment in renewable energy technologies, despite concerns a lack of legislated instrument may impact investor confidence in the sector.

“The investments that are continuing to be made in renewables, on the basis of the fact, that, increasingly, we’ve hit the threshold point, where the investments make sense, increasingly, without subsidies,” he said.

“We still have large-scale and small-scale policies there. We still have the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and we still have the Emissions Reduction Fund for the period that it’s currently for, and we’re on track to hit it …

“I know people will want to use that one figure [1.3%] and ignore the fact that emissions per capita [are] at the lowest level in 28 years. Electricity sector emissions are down 13.9%, I think it is, on 2009, on the same figures.

“So people choose and pick their figures to make their political arguments. We’re going to meet those in a canter.”

Critics of the government’s stance have repeatedly called for legislation to ensure Australia meets the targets it agreed to when Tony Abbott signed the nation up to the Paris agreement.

But with the national energy guarantee a casualty of the leadership spillwithin the Liberal party, the government has no legislated instrument to ensure emission reductions, and no plans to create one.

Morrison said he did not believe that would impact Australia’s progress, citing government policy as being enough, despite repeated calls from interest groups, including the business lobby, to give certainty.

“We’ll meet up in 2030 and we can argue the toss then,” he said, citing the deadline when Australia is due to meet its target of reducing emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels.

“None of us are Nostradamus in this but we have the policies in place and importantly, the technology, the demand management. All of the issues are pointing to that outcome so I’m comfortable with our 26%. I was comfortable with it when we set it, when I was part of the government that set it. And we’ll continue to pursue it.”

He said lowering electricity prices remained the government’s priority and criticised Labor for its policy.

“Labor has a 45% emissions reduction target – we all know what that will do,” he said.

“It will put up electricity prices … for every household in the country. Labor has that. We have a sensible target of 26%. We’ll stick to that and it won’t have an impact on electricity prices and we’ll continue our track record of delivering emissions reductions.”

Labor has said it will look to legislate a version of the national energy guarantee the government abandoned as policy to ensure Australia does meet its targets. The Greens announced its parliamentary team will take a “hard line” on making sure any future Labor government does not back down.

Research released earlier this month found that emission reductions targets were not responsible for driving up power prices.