Nationals conference rejects Joyce-backed push to scrap net zero target

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce has failed in his bid to secure broader grassroots support to abolish the party’s policy of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, in a fiery free-wheeling debate on the floor of the Nationals Federal Conference.

At the conference in Canberra on Saturday attended by more than 100 National Party delegates, Joyce supported a motion that called on the federal party room to “abolish its policy of net zero by 2050 and adopt a policy that will reduce Australia’s CO2 emissions in collaboration with the rest of the world”.

Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce (right) is pushing to abolish the party’s support for net zero emissions by 2050, putting him at odds with Leader David Littleproud and the broader Coalition.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

But amid a flurry of proposed amendments, points of order, assertions of wrong procedure and mass confusion, the motion was gutted to remove any reference to abolishing net zero with majority support from the floor.

Joyce, who was backed by Nationals senator Matt Canavan in objecting to the motion being changed, argued on the conference floor that the move to net zero was the “most substantive change to the economics of this nation”.

”I think we have an obligation to discuss it. We can’t be hiding from our own shadow. We know what’s going on. What is happening is our lives, especially in New England, have been turned upside down,” Joyce, the MP for the NSW electorate of New England, said.

However, several delegates raised furious objections to the push to jettison the climate change target, saying it would undermine the Coalition’s push to embrace nuclear energy and scupper its chances of winning the next election.

“In the eyes of many Australians, we will look indecisive and even recalcitrant if we flip on net zero now, and if we do, if we’re really that careless, we would hand the Albanese government a quiver of arrows that they would fire on us again and again and again,” Mitchell Dickens, a delegate from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, said.

The conference will instead continue debating on Sunday a re-worked motion that called for a “practical approach to lowering carbon emissions as a substantive move to nuclear power is made”.

Speaking earlier on Saturday to media, Nationals Leader David Littleproud dismissed rampant speculation that the original Joyce-backed motion was designed to destabilise his leadership. Asked whether he supported abandoning net zero, Littleproud said, “not at this stage unless there’s some other alternative”.

“But the net zero commitment we’ve got at the moment is vastly different to what the National Party signed up to. Labor’s net zero is a lot different, and we shouldn’t conflate the two. They’re vastly different because they have accelerated that pathway from effectively 2050 to 2030,” Littleproud said.

But he kept the door open to the debate being revived in the Nationals party room.

“I haven’t seen or envisage any change in our party room policy. But if it comes, then we’ll have that debate with the information that’s put ahead in front of us,” Littleproud said.

Speaking to the media outside the conference, Joyce said he had “no interest” in returning to the leadership.

The prospect of the Nationals reviving a bitter debate over net zero has rattled federal Liberals, especially moderate MPs. As Nationals leader, Joyce cut a net zero deal in 2021 with then-prime minister Scott Morrison to back the climate target in exchange for an extra seat for the Nationals cabinet and a package of measures for regional Australia.

But the tepid support for the target among Joyce and his allies in the Nationals party room, combined with the preceding years of climate policy wars within the Coalition, is widely recognised as having contributed to the loss of six inner-city blue-ribbon Liberal seats to the teal MPs who campaigned on strong climate action.

Liberal Leader Peter Dutton reaffirmed his commitment to net zero on Friday, saying “we won’t be departing from it”.

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article