Kohler says PM “running out of room” on Net Zero 2050

Protestor holding sign mocking Scott Morrison's approach to Net Zero 2050
Image: Shutterstock

Finance journalist Alan Kohler has delivered a sharp assessment of the Morrison Government’s approach to Net Zero 2050 in a special feature for the Eureka Report, saying Prime Minister Scott Morrison was “quickly running out of room”.

“It’s pretty clear that the Morrison Government will soon sign up to Net Zero by 2050: it has become a domestic political imperative, as well as an international one,” Kohler wrote.

“Scott Morrison is quickly running out of room. He must join in, possibly as soon as July 11, and the G20 meeting on climate in Venice. That depends on how hard Italian President Mario Draghi pushes for a deal and whether China is prepared to do one.

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“To be part of it, and not have the humiliation of going to Venice and refusing to sign the communique, Morrison must do a deal with the National Party, now led by Barnaby Joyce.

“If it’s to be done by July 11, then Barnaby Joyce has a lot of power: he will get a very good deal for farmers, perhaps including the re-writing of the Murray Darling Basin Plan. If it can wait till November because China is also a hold-out, then there is more time to sweat the Nationals.

“But the main reason Joyce got his old job back is to drive a harder bargain than Michael McCormack on this subject, and expectations are high. It should be a fascinating game to watch over the next weeks and months.”

Kohler said Australia’s task of achieving Net Zero 2050 was a lot simpler than China’s because construction represented less than 10 per cent of our economy.

“The challenges in this country lie in mining and electricity generation,” Kohler wrote.

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“So the first thing the Government would have to do to achieve Net Zero 2050 is tighten the baselines and force mines and power generators to buy more ACCUs (and admit that higher costs will be involved – that is, a dreaded ‘carbon tax’).

“That would drive up the price of ACCUs and encourage more offset projects. Closures of coal-fired power stations would be brought forward and some mines would probably become uneconomic.

“Most coal power stations are scheduled to close by 2050 anyway, but to be net zero by then more would have to close earlier, which could be achieved by tightening their emission baseline.”

Read Kohler’s full report on Net Zero 2050 here.