Australian opposition promises deeper emission reductions

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia would set a more ambitious target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by the end of the decade if the government changes hands in elections early next year, the opposition leader said on Friday.

Center-left Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese set climate policy as a battle line at elections expected to be held between March and May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was widely criticized at a U.N. climate summit in Scotland last month over his conservative government’s target of reducing Australia’s emissions by only 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

It was the same target Australia adopted at the Paris summit in 2015, while other wealthy countries have pledged far deeper cuts in a bid to contain global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Albanese said a change of government would mean Australia would be able to attend the next international climate and “not be in the naughty corner.”

Australia’s economy was similar to Canada’s and Labor’s goal was similar to the Canadian target of reducing emissions by 40% to 45% by the end of the decade.

“We think that we’ve got absolutely the balance right because one of the things that I wanted to make sure is that we have a policy that doesn’t leave people behind, that supports industry, that supports jobs,” Albanese said.

But Morrison said Labor’s target would increase electricity prices and cost jobs.

“We’re on our way to net zero by 2050,” Morrison said. “We’re not on our way to drive people out of their jobs and force up their electricity price.”

Morrison’s coalition was narrowly re-elected in 2019 when Labor promised to cut emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050.

The government has also recently adopted the net zero target.

Morrison was a Cabinet minister in 2014 when a newly elected government repealed Australia’s 2-year-old carbon tax. Government climate policies since have rejected any measures that would make polluters pay for their emissions.

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