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AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Morrison set for Glasgow but has to finish packing his bag

Scott Morrison has declared he will attend next month’s Glasgow climate conference, as the Coalition parties prepare to consider the government’s revised climate policy.

Morrison, who delayed a final decision on whether to go to COP26, and at one stage seemed inclined not to, said on Friday he had confirmed his attendance overnight.

But he still has to land his new climate policy, including a net zero target for 2050, with the Nationals.

The Nationals meet on Sunday, and will be briefed by Energy Minister Angus Taylor. The Liberal parliamentary party will meet on Monday.

The indications on Friday were that a majority of the Nationals party room favoured backing the 2050 target. But a minority will not be for turning, and confusion and uncertainty remain about the plan’s detail and what is in it for regional communities.

After the party meetings there could be further work needed. The policy will then have to return to cabinet – which discussed it on Wednesday – for final approval.

Landing an unequivocal sign up to net zero has become the central yardstick for the policy. But the policy’s medium term ambition will be a key test for how Australia’s position is received internationally.

At present Australia is committed to reducing emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030, and it is generally recognised this must be improved.

The government has repeatedly stressed Australia is projected to beat this target. Other countries, however, will be critical if the medium term ambition is too modest, or is put in the form of a “projection” rather than a concrete fresh target.

Nationals sources on Friday reported MPs are getting blowback from their conservative membership base in Queensland about the prospective turnaround on climate policy.

Apart from largesse for regional Australia, Nationals are looking for hard evidence in the policy that their constituents will be protected in the transition to a low emissions economy. The party’s Senate leader, Bridget McKenzie, has adopted a high profile in publicly prosecuting the case for strong protections.

The policy will be heavy on detail about the technology the government says will achieve the reduced emissions.

Morrison told a news conference on Friday “net zero was an outcome that I outlined at the beginning of this year, consistent with our Paris commitments.

"The challenge is not about the if and the when, the challenge is about the how.

"And I’m very focused on the how, because the global changes that are happening in our economy as a result of the response to climate change have a real impact, and they will have a real impact here in Australia.”

He said the plan he was taking forward “is about ensuring that our regions are strong, that our regions’ jobs are not only protected, but they have opportunities for the future.

"It’s not just about hitting net zero. That’s an important environmental goal. But what’s important is that Australia’s economy goes from strength to strength, and the livelihoods and the lives that Australians know, particularly in rural and regional areas, are able to go forward with hope and with confidence.”

The push to sign up to net zero has been boosted in the last week by the Business Council of Australia and a campaign by News Corp tabloids. The Reserve Bank has reiterated the importance of a climate policy that is credible in the eyes of investors.

The prime minister’s trip will include attending the G20 meeting in Rome before the climate conference.

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