Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison . Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ROHAN THOMSON
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison . Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ROHAN THOMSON

Strict government intervention on climate change would add pressure on living costs and threaten businesses, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, as global negotiators debate final outcomes from the COP26 summit.

Morrison, who has faced criticism over his country’s planned action, last month pledged to hit net-zero emissions by 2050 after prolonged domestic debate, though he said he wouldn’t enshrine the target in law. The country, one of the world’s top suppliers of fossil fuels, will also continue to rely heavily on projects designed to offset planet-warming pollution.

“Climate change will ultimately be solved by ‘can do’ capitalism, not ‘don’t do’ governments seeking to control people’s lives and tell them what to do, with interventionist regulation and taxes that just force up your cost of living and force businesses to close,” Morrison said on Wednesday in Melbourne. 

An electric vehicle strategy announced on Tuesday won’t include a deadline for phasing out sales of new gas guzzlers, while a new A$1bn fund for low-emissions technology is intended to invest in sectors including carbon capture and storage, which advocates say can prolong the use of fossil fuels. 

“Our pathway will be quite different to relatively small, densely-populated, services-based advanced economies in the North Atlantic,” Morrison said. “Under our plan, Australians do not have to upturn their lifestyles or our economy to reach net zero.” Morrison is contending with waning popularity ahead of a national election that must be held by May.

Australia was the only nation to score zero in a review of climate policies among 60 countries and the EU, the Climate Change Performance Index said in an annual report published this month. Kazakhstan ranked bottom on all measures, including emissions, energy use and adoption of renewables, with Saudi Arabia the worst performing G20 nation.

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