Simon Holmes à Court takes government and Tim Wilson to task on net zero, Paris Agreement and climate change plans on Q+A

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© Provided by ABC NEWS Simon Holmes à Court took Tim Wilson to task several times on Q+A over government policy on climate change. ()

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberals wait on the other partner in the Coalition to approve their plan to hit net zero targets by 2050, the usefulness of that target has been questioned on Q+A.

Climate 200 founder and Cleantech investor Simon Holmes à Court said the upcoming COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which Mr Morrison will attend, is actually about reducing emissions by 2030 in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and that all the talk of net zero is simply a “distraction” by the government.

His comments came on an episode where he frequently clashed with Assistant Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reductions, Tim Wilson.

Mr Wilson had just spruiked and supported Australia’s plan for net zero, despite the Nationals continuing to make as yet unspecified demands of the government before they give Mr Morrison the green light to take the plan to Glasgow.

“The principles which underpin [the plan] are very clearly focused on the role of technology to create new investment and new jobs so that Australia responds to changing market demand,” Mr Wilson said.

“That creates an environment for jobs in new technology sectors and, of course, cleaner energy, while also making sure we offset the emissions of existing things like fossil fuels.”

However, Mr Holmes à Court said the talk of net zero was really nothing but a smokescreen. 

“This conversation about net zero is so frustrating,” Mr Holmes à Court said.

“When Tony Abbott signed Australia up to the Paris Agreement in 2015 he signed Australia up for a net zero target back then.

“New South Wales and Victoria signed on to net zero in 2016. Every state and territory in Australia has a net zero target. Australia has a net zero target right now.

“This is an absolute distraction.”

‘Say goodbye to the reef’

Mr Holmes à Court said that Australia would face international ridicule in Glasgow due to outdated policies and ideas.

“We’re talking about it because Morrison is about to go to Glasgow with nothing more than Tony Abbott’s warmed-up homework from 2015,” he said.

“We’re going to be an absolute embarrassment when we get there.”

Mr Holmes à Court said the Glasgow meeting was about stopping global warming rather than net zero.

He said a failure on this front had dire consequences for Australia.

“Glasgow is about the Paris Agreement and the Paris Agreement is about keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees [Celsius], preferably 1.5, and if we don’t manage to do that we may as well say goodbye to the reef,” he said.

“The unprecedented fire events that we’ve had recently will become every other year and large parts of Australia will become most uninsurable and unlivable.”

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Climate Change Chris Bowen agreed, saying Australia needed to push more medium-term targets for 2030.

“Simon is right, you shouldn’t get a prize for committing to net zero,” Mr Bowen said.

“What will really determine whether we can hold the world to 1.5 degrees warming is what happens over the next decade and that’s why medium-term targets are so important and that is why the government should be increasing its medium-term target at Glasgow.”

Government accused of ‘tricks and lies’ on emissions

With questions hanging over what Australia’s plan will actually be, viewer Lesleyanne Hawthorne asked why the Prime Minister was seemingly being held over a barrel by the minor member of the Coalition with just 10 days until Glasgow.

Mr Wilson said while he supported net zero, it was a necessary part of good government to discuss policy within the party.

But then Mr Holmes à Court accused the government of having no intention of meeting the terms of the Paris Agreement, which led to a verbal stoush between the two.

“That’s false, Simon,” Mr Wilson responded before adding “the government has a 2030 target … the Labor party does not.”

Mr Wilson then said that the amount of time it was taking the government to form a net zero policy was a good thing as long a result was achieved.

“If it involves a transformation which actually leads to more jobs, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and Australia being a responsible actor,” he said.

The response drew further scorn from Mr Holmes à Court.

“But Australia is not a responsible actor in this,” he said.

“We will be one of the only countries of our only allies that are going to this conference without an increased ambition for 2030.

“You have done nothing in your government to reach these terms and you’ve done nothing for the public to reduce emissions policy and you’ve got no plans for the next three terms of government.”

The comment again drew an angered response from Mr Wilson who wanted to answer what he termed “a series of accusations”.

“Emissions are down by 20 per cent since 2005,” he said.

“And one of the reasons why people are now calling for increased ambition is because every model and every trajectory shows that we’re not just going to meet it but we’re going to beat it.”

Mr Holmes à Court called that claim “somewhere between a trick and a lie” as he took the government to task for the way they measure emissions.

“I see this everywhere … telling Australians you’ve done a great job reducing emissions by 20 per cent,” he said.

“The land sector has been an area where we have made some progress.

“We stopped land clearing, not because of government made it happen, but because the Queensland government shut down land clearing.

“You’ve made no inroads on transforming the rest of the economy and you have no plan going through from here.

“We have to move away from these tricks and lies. Australia is not pulling its weight on climate change.”

Mr Wilson again rejected the accusation and dismissed it as narrative.

“Simon, the tricks and lies are to say that the provisions that are in the Paris Agreement and how we actually account for emissions don’t count because it doesn’t suit your narrative,” he said.

After that debate, host David Speers asked Mr Wilson if the government would take a new target for reduced emissions to the next election.

The Liberal MP said it was possible, but would not commit.

“What I can confirm is that if we do something like that it will go through proper processes through the party and it won’t unilaterally be done on this program,” Mr Wilson said.

or the Q+A Facebook page.

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