UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is “impressed” by Australia’s ambition to tackle climate change and is looking forward to work with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on new green technologies.
Last year, Australia was denied the opportunity to speak at a climate summit hosted by Mr Johnson, because he wanted to encourage nations to set more ambitious emissions reduction targets.
On Tuesday night (AEST) at a press conference announcing the striking of a free-trade agreement, Mr Johnson was asked about Australia’s climate targets, which has been internationally criticised for not being ambitious enough.
“I am impressed by the ambition of Australia and obviously we are going to be looking for more the whole time, as we go into COP 26 in November. But we want to work with Scott, with Australia, on the clean-tech solutions,” Mr Johnson said.
He conceded that Australia does have history with using coal and that will prove challenging.
“On the climate change ambitions of Australia, I think that Scott has declared for net zero by 2050. When you consider the situation Australia is in, it is a massive coal producer, it is having to change the way things are oriented,” he said.
Mr Johnson said the UK example shows coal dependency can be nearly eliminated.
“In 2012 this country had 40 per cent of its power from coal, it is now less than 2 per cent, going down the whole time. So it can happen fast.”
Mr Johnson said it the trade deal announced on Tuesday was significant as it is the country’s first post-Brexit trade agreement, highlighting the similar outlooks of the two countries.
“I think it is more important politically and symbolically. We are opening up to each other. And this is a prelude to us opening up around the world.”
At the G7 summit over the weekend, Mr Johnson recommitted the UK to the goal of cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.
Australia’s goal is emissions reduction of between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Mr Morrison has indicated that a target of net zero by 2050 is a longer-term aspirational goal, but has indicated no clear timeline for potentially achieving that outcome.
Mr Johnson said that in his talks with Mr Morrison there was agreement that clean technology would accelerate emissions reductions.
“Because I think what we both strongly believes that you can have a green industrial revolution that drives high wage, high skilled jobs. You do both. And that is what we are going to work on together.”