National Party Demands Plan Before Agreeing To Zero Emissions

By Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev is an Australian reporter based in Perth covering energy, tech, and politics. He has a background in maths, physics, and computer science. Contact him at
October 22, 2021 Updated: October 24, 2021

As Australia approaches adopting a net zero emissions target, Deputy Premier and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has urged the prime minister to address critical concerns on how the move should be achieved without undermining the nation’s economy.

All eyes have settled on the resource-rich country ahead of the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, where it is expected Prime Minister Scott Morrison will overturn Australia’s stance of being one of the only nations without a hard net zero emissions target.

Joyce handed Morrison a set of requirements on Thursday, which were deemed by the National Party to be critical prior to settling on the policy.

Joyce and other Nationals members had previously raised concerns that legislating a net zero target without concrete planning could profoundly impact industry and energy security.

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Workers leave Hazelwood Power Station after their final shift in Hazelwood, Australia, on Mar. 31, 2017. Around 750 workers were left jobless after the plant was closed. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Morrison told reporters the decision would be made early next week before attending the climate conference in Glasgow, beginning on Oct. 31.

“I expect to see some further information today, and we’ll work through that and determine what we’ll take forward to cabinet next week,” Morrison said.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reassured that the decision would not sacrifice Australia’s industries.

“It’s not a binary choice between a strong economy and a lower-emissions future. We can have both. That’s our plan,” Frydenberg told Sky News.

While Joyce had earlier conceded the decision would ultimately be at the discretion of Morrison, Nationals members warned that refusing to adhere to the advice would spell discord within the coalition.

Australia Grapples Over Net Zero Policy

Opinion across Australia has been divided on the legislation of a net zero target, with Australia’s production of just over 1 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide inciting worry that efforts of cutting emissions will have no impact on climate.

This comes in contrast to China, whose president, Xi Jinping, has yet to confirm his attendance at the climate conference despite the communist-ruled nation producing 27 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said that Australia’s, and other democratic countries, transition to net zero would directly weaken them against a growing threat from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—with China itself continuing to commission new coal-fired power generation for use until 2040.

Canavan also said the transition to net zero could also severely undermine regional jobs and industry, with “net zero” requiring the offset of emissions produced from hard-to-abate industries.

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Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Jun. 22, 2021. (AAP/Mick Tsikas)

“This means people who build mines, grow food or construct an airstrip will have to pay other people to plant trees or do something else to offset their emissions,” Canavan wrote in an article.

“And that is why it hurts regional Australia more than anywhere else. To grow our country towns, we need people to build dams, mines and airports. Compared to the cities, who already have these things, we will be at a permanent disadvantage.”

Canavan also criticised the growing dependence on hydrogen as an emissions-free form of energy, given the technology has not been adequately developed for commercial use.

Meanwhile, Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie pointed to a misunderstanding in net zero proponents’ push to create tens of thousands of jobs in the renewable energy industry.

“The reality is though that once they have been constructed, there isn’t long-term, ongoing careers in those renewable energy generation spaces at the moment,” she told the ABC.

However, the Australian climate change communications organisation, the Climate Council, has continued to lobby for accelerated emissions reduction efforts from the government in light of a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

On Thursday, the Climate Council released its report tracking Australia’s record and commitments for climate change against developed countries, finding that Australia is the “worst performing when it comes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and moving beyond fossil fuels.”

The report found that emissions in heavy emitting sectors grew, with electricity emissions increasing by around a third since 1990 and transport emissions growing by more than half.

The Climate Council had already called upon the government last month to adhere to suggestions presented in the IPCC report amid calls from the public, businesses, and other government members.

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Protesters take part in the School Strike 4 Climate rally in Melbourne, Australia, on May 21, 2021. (Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

“The science is clear that the world urgently needs to reduce emissions this decade, but none of Australia’s commitments are a meaningful contribution to this goal,” said Will Steffen, Climate Council spokesperson and Emeritus Professor at Australian National University.

“We are now one of the only advanced economies that haven’t yet taken these essential steps to reducing emissions.”

Steffen also suggested Australia should instead follow the lead of the United States and other nations in reducing emissions.

“The United States has pledged billions in new climate financing for developing nations, and China announced it will stop financing international coal power stations. This sets the tone for what’s expected of all countries in the lead up to the next major U.N. climate talks,” Steffen said.

The Climate Council also says that the science demands Australia fast track climate change efforts and instead reduce emissions by 75 percent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035.

Daniel Khmelev is an Australian reporter based in Perth covering energy, tech, and politics. He has a background in maths, physics, and computer science. Contact him at