Scott Morrison has backed in the resources sector as a new survey shows a rise in the number of Australians concerned about climate change and the world's largest investment manager signalled it was pulling back from coal.
BlackRock CEO Laurence Fink, whose firm manages roughly $7 trillion for investors, is putting climate change and sustainability at the centre of its investing approach including cutting out investments in some coal producers from some of its portfolios.
It would also sharply increase the number of sustainability-focused funds that it offers, and vote against companies at shareholder meetings when they're too slow in disclosing and mitigating their impact on the environment.
Mr Fink, whose firm has also joined the Investor Group on Climate Change, says the world is on the edge of a "fundamental reshaping of finance" due to climate change.
Asked about the BlackRock decision, Mr Morrison said coal was worth $70 billion to the Australian economy.
"It is important to communities across the country," he told reporters in Canberra.
"Our government's plan is to meet and beat emissions reductions targets, without putting taxes on people, putting up electricity prices and pulling out the rug from regional communities who depend on the sector for their livelihoods.
"We will continue to maintain a balanced approach to make sure it is in Australia's interest."
The investment decision came as a new survey by the Australia Institute on Wednesday found almost half of those surveyed are now "very concerned" about climate change compared to less than 40 per cent six months ago.
About 80 per cent of Australians are concerned about climate change, an increase of five points from July.
The Australia Institute has proposed a national climate disaster fund, which would be created by a levy on pollution from coal, gas and oil production.
Former Labor leader and now opposition frontbencher Bill Shorten said in the face of the bushfire crisis Australians were demanding more climate action from the government.
"One thing I have noticed travelling around Victoria - people don't stop me and ask: 'What is the cost of acting on climate change," he told reporters in Melbourne.
"People now, right across Australia are saying: 'What is the cost of not acting on climate change."
The cost of Labor's climate policies were heavily criticised by the Morrison government during last year's election campaign, with the coalition labelling their ambitious targets as "economy wrecking".
Science Minister Karen Andrews wants the debate to move on from whether or not climate change is real.
"Every second that we spend talking about whether the climate is changing is a second we are not spending on looking at adaptation, mitigation strategies," she told ABC radio.
However, a handful of coalition backbenchers remain outspoken about their denial of climate change.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese says it's this group - including Craig Kelly and George Christensen - who have held the coalition's climate change policies back for more than a decade.
Australian Associated Press