Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce expects his colleagues to reject the idea of making deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 despite support within the government for stronger action on climate change ahead of a global summit.
Mr Joyce left little room for doubt about the interim target as the Nationals party room meets to decide its stance on climate policy including the longer-term goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, an idea that has split the party.
Asked if there was any chance his colleagues could support a higher target for 2030, Mr Joyce said he did not expect the party room to back the change at its meeting on Sunday.
“On this issue, I would say no, right,” he said ahead of the talks.
“If you say I’ve got to be honest and say, well, what’s your views on the room on that issue, I’d say no, I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Asked again if that meant no chance of a change, he confirmed this was his view of the party room mood.
“My view at this stage is no. I might get knocked over but I’m trying to be honest with you and give you an appraisal of where I see other people and that’s my appraisal,” he said.
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Energy Minister Angus Taylor will address the crucial meeting of Nationals MPs on Sunday as the Liberal Party tries to persuade their junior Coalition partner to sign up to a net zero emissions target by 2050.
Senior Liberal and Nationals government sources insist that despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison committing to travel to the Glasgow climate change conference at the end of the month, a deal on net zero was not yet locked in.
While Liberal cabinet ministers have backed the case for higher targets, with Defence Minister and senior conservative figure Peter Dutton supporting net zero by 2050 in an interview last Friday, the Nationals have four ministers in cabinet and could prevent a consensus.
Mr Joyce said there was a chance the outcome meant federal cabinet could not come to a united position on the net zero target.
“That’s possible and it could go either way,” he said.
Mr Joyce said Mr Taylor would address the meeting and take questions, and then would allow a discussion among the Nationals MPs. “We’re not in the Liberal Party room. We’re in the Nationals room and we’ll make the Nationals’ decision and we won’t be held hostage to what other people may wish,” he said.
Mr Joyce said the scenario could be similar to a cabinet debate over the Australian Wheat Board in 2006 and 2007 when Liberals wanted to remove the “single desk” control of wheat exports while the Nationals backed AWB’s central role. The divide in that case meant the Howard government struggled to reach an outcome and it was left to a later government to settle it, with Labor passing the Wheat Marketing Act in 2008 to allow several exporters.
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