Scott Morrison won’t attend UN climate summit despite being in the US

Exclusive: PM has signalled Australia isn’t making any new emissions reduction targets, at least at this point

Scott Morrison will not attend the UN climate action summit despite him being in America to visit the Trump administration at the time – deploying the foreign minister, Marise Payne, and the Australian ambassador for the environment, Patrick Suckling, instead.

Guardian Australia understands speaking slots at the event in New York on 23 September were reserved for countries announcing new emissions reduction targets or financial commitments to the UN Green Climate Fund – and Morrison has been signalling Australia won’t be going further, at least at this point, than commitments previously announced.

A draft program for the summit, and a list of member states intending to present at the event, seen by Guardian Australia, did not include any reference to Australian participation. Morrison was asked by the Greens in question time on Wednesday whether he would attend the UN summit, and he said Australia would be represented at the event.

Asked by Guardian Australia to confirm whether the prime minister would be the Australian representative, and whether the government would offer any new commitments, a spokesman for Morrison said: “Australia has already outlined our policies to tackle climate change including cutting our emissions by 26-28% and investing directly into climate resilience projects through our regional partners”.

The spokesman confirmed Payne would attend the summit, not Morrison. “The foreign minister, accompanied by the ambassador for the environment, will be highlighting [the Coalition’s previously announced policies] when she represents Australia at the UN Climate Action Summit.”

Morrison will go to New York later in the week as part of his US visit to address the UN General Assembly.

Guardian Australia reported in July that the UN secretary general, António Guterres, as a prelude to the special climate summit on 23 September, had written to all heads of state, including Australia, asking countries to outline plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Morrison at the time dead batted what Australia might do at the UN event, but signalled Australia was only engaging on the process to 2030, not on the next round of commitments to 2050 flagged by the secretary general.

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