Nationals agree to 2050 net zero carbon emissions target conditionally

Nationals MPs will back Scott Morrison taking a 2050 net zero carbon emissions target to the COP26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow next week, on conditions agreed to with the Prime Minister.

The exact conditions were not spelled out when Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce emerged from the party room meeting on Sunday evening. Mr Joyce said the process would continue, with the government drafting a cabinet submission containing the agreed terms.

For 10 days, National Party MPs have been saying that their demands were about supporting regional Australia.

It is understood the key to getting the junior coalition partner over the line was a "socio-economic safety valve" which would include regular reviews of the impacts of the emissions target on jobs and industries in rural and regional areas.

The Prime Minister will fly to Europe later this week to attend the UN climate change conference in Glasgow.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce told reporters on Sunday his party supported a "process" to get to net zero emissions by 2050.

Mr Joyce said he expected there to be a firm commitment to regional Australia in a submission, which would go to cabinet this week before Mr Morrison heads overseas on Thursday.

"The position regional people are in now is better than the terms and the process that was initially delivered to us," he said after a party room meeting in Canberra lasting just over two hours.

"We are in support of a process going forward that would go towards a 2050 emissions target.

"Obviously that depends upon what we see in the cabinet submission reflecting the conversations and agreements between myself and the Prime Minister."

Apart from a "socio-economic safety valve", which would include regular reviews of the impacts of the emissions target on jobs and industries in rural and regional areas, a key factor in getting the Nationals over the line was the prospect of an election loss without a net zero target.

"Standing up for them [regional Australians] is making sure that you are in the [cabinet] room where the decisions are being made," the Deputy Prime Minister said.

"Heroics that have no outcome, heroics that leave nothing but a rhetorical flourish - but leave the person who is hurting in the same position as what they were - is not an outcome the Nationals party room supported."

He declined to say whether the Prime Minister had agreed during the negotiations to give the Nationals an extra cabinet position.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce (centre), Agriculture Minister David Littleproud (right) and Senator Bridget McKenzie in the Nationals party room earlier this year. Picture: Keegan Carroll

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce (centre), Agriculture Minister David Littleproud (right) and Senator Bridget McKenzie in the Nationals party room earlier this year. Picture: Keegan Carroll

No deal with the Nationals could have been a major embarrassment for the Prime Minister heading to Glasgow and to the polls by May, with climate shaping up as a major issue for voters.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed the decision.

"I welcome the Nationals' in-principle support for the commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and look forward to this matter now being finally considered and determined by cabinet," he said.

"We recognise this has been a challenging issue for the Nationals."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was extraordinary Mr Morrison wasn't in the room where decisions were being made about Australia's economic and environmental future.

"This is a government that is frozen in time while the world warms around. This is not really a government, more like a rabble," he said in Canberra.

Liberal frontbencher Alan Tudge dismissed the suggestion the government's junior partner was deciding policy.

"They quite rightly have their own party room. They can debate these issues. We have given them the reassurance that the plan here does not do anything to accelerate the destruction of any industry," Mr Tudge told Sky News.

"We want those industries to be maintained, but customers abroad are changing their views and we have got to adapt to those customers."

Mr Littleproud declined to disclose what was in the Nationals' list of demands to secure a deal.

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However, News Corp newspapers said the demands included changes to federal legislation that would open the way to explore nuclear power in Australia, overturning a longstanding ban.

"Nuclear is something the National Party obviously stands firmly behind as a party room, but we understand you have got to educate before you legislate," Mr Littleproud said.

"The electorate isn't necessarily there with us at the moment. We have to be pragmatic about that. You have still got to win elections."

Mr Albanese said he looks forward to any member of the National Party saying they wanted a nuclear power plant in their electorate.

"I look forward to having that debate in their electorate," he said.

NSW Treasurer and Environment Minister Matt Kean said pursuing nuclear was like "pursuing a fantasy".

"The reality is that it doesn't stack up at the moment, on practical grounds or on economical grounds. Nuclear energy is two to three times more expensive than coal," Mr Kean told the ABC's Insiders.

He said what he would like to see the Prime Mnister take to Glasgow was a net zero commitment by 2050, but also an ambitious interim commitment by 2030.

"I think at the very least the Prime Minister should take the average targets of all the states and territories here in Australia, which would be around a 35 per cent target," he said.

Mr Albanese said Labor won't be talking about its interim target until after the Glasgow summit.

"Our policy will be impacted by what comes out of Glasgow. That is something that I said earlier this year, I've been consistent," he said.

  • with AAP
This story Nationals MPs conditionally agree to 2050 net zero target, but details kept secret first appeared on The Canberra Times.