PM set to respond to Nationals on net zero

The PM is finalising a response to demands for rural Australia to be protected under climate action.
The PM is finalising a response to demands for rural Australia to be protected under climate action.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is putting the finishing touches to his response to a list of Nationals demands in exchange for locking in a target of net zero by 2050 that he can take to climate talks in Glasgow.

A majority of Nationals MPs and senators, like their Liberal counterparts, are understood to agree that Australia is already on the path to net zero mid-century, even though a firm target has not yet been set.

But the key demand from the junior coalition partner is to ensure that trajectory of emissions cuts and shift to renewable energy does not damage rural and regional communities.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who will chair a partyroom meeting on Sunday afternoon to receive and discuss Mr Morrison's response, has declined to spell out what is on the party's list but said it had a clear theme.

"The thematics is making sure we look after the people in regional areas," he told ABC TV.

Deputy leader David Littleproud described it as a concise list of "safeguards and mechanisms".

"It's about making sure there is protection for regional Australia, but also the opportunity for regional Australia to grow and to be part of the solutions," he told 4BC radio.

Mr Joyce said Nationals members understood Australia's obligation to be a "good global citizen", with the COP26 talks due to start on October 31.

But he said such a position should not come at the expense of the coal and gas industries which paid for the nation's schools, hospitals and disability services, or the ability of farmers to clear land as they saw fit.

He also rejected claims by leading scientists that climate change will cause catastrophic damage to the planet if left unabated.

"When you say catastrophic, I don't believe it's in the interests of everybody to make statements so grand that we terrify everybody."

Mr Littleproud said the prime minister had been respectful to the Nationals and answered all questions put to him by members and senators.

"The ball's in the prime minister's court."

The prime minister has said the federal cabinet will have the final say on the climate plan.

Mr Morrison is due to head to the G20 summit in Rome next Thursday before flying on to Glasgow.

Australian Associated Press