Barnaby Joyce has ‘no problems’ with net-zero target that protects regional Australia

Helena Burke and Courtney GouldNCA NewsWire
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will lay the groundwork for a net-zero commitment. NCA NewsWire / Sarah Matray
Camera IconTreasurer Josh Frydenberg will lay the groundwork for a net-zero commitment. NCA NewsWire / Sarah Matray Credit: News Corp Australia

Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has made a surprise pivot in the debate over net-zero emissions, declaring he has “no problems” with adopting the target.

But there are some strings attached.

Mr Joyce said he would not oppose a net-zero plan, provided regional communities and Australia’s economy were both protected during the process.

“I’ve got no problems with any plan that does not leave regional areas hurt,” Mr Joyce told ABC radio on Friday.

“We need to make sure we have net zero losses in regional areas ... that we don’t put our economy at threat.”

When asked whether he supported Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s comments about Australia achieving net zero by 2050, Mr Joyce said the coalition intended to reach the target ahead of time.

“We are already wishing to be there even earlier,” Mr Joyce said.

BARNABY JOYCE PRESSER
Camera IconBarnaby Joyce said he had ‘no problems’ with a net-zero target that didn’t hurt regional Australia. Newswire/Gary Ramage. Credit: News Corp Australia

The Nationals leader’s comments come amid ongoing opposition to the net-zero zero target from within his own party.

Nationals senator Matt Canavan slammed the 2050 goal, saying it would “handicap” Australia’s industries and give China a “free kick”.

“I’m dead set against it,” Senator Canavan said on Friday.

Mr Joyce conceded he still had a number of concerns about the target, saying he was worried Australia could end up with a costly energy shortfall if the plan was not well thought out.

“We have to make sure our economy can function, we have to make sure that we earn the money,” he said.

“We have to make sure we make people very aware of the consequences of getting it wrong.“

Colin Boyce announced as LNP Candidate to replace Ken O'Dowd at next Federal Election.
Camera IconNationals Senator Matt Canavan said he was ‘dead set against’ the net-zero emissions target. Credit: Supplied

But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg argued that not moving quickly enough to achieve the net-zero target would also see Australia’s economy take a hit.

In a keynote speech to Australian Industry Group members, the Treasurer declared Australia could not risk being left behind by international markets over climate change.

“We cannot run the risk that markets falsely assume we are not transitioning in line with the rest of the world,” he said.

“Were we to find ourselves in that position, it would increase the cost of capital and reduce its availability, be it debt or equity.”

TREASURER PRESSER
Camera IconAustralia’s industry cannot risk being left behind due to climate targets. NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw Credit: News Corp Australia

The government has for months sought to soften its rhetoric on net-zero targets ahead of a major UN climate change summit in Glasgow next month.

Scott Morrison has faced increasing pressure from the US and UK for Australia to sign up to the commitment ahead of Cop26.

But an internal squabble with the Nationals – who under Barnaby Joyce’s stewardship, have long opposed a net-zero target – has turned the issue into a political landmine.

In his address, Mr Frydenberg acknowledged industry was already leading Australia’s push towards a net-zero future.

“To go the next step and achieve net zero will require more investment across the economy,” the treasurer said.

“An economy-wide transition is needed, as in the words of the former Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney this ‘isn't about funding only deep green activities, or black-listing dark brown ones.’

“The transition requires a broad based approach, which sees investment in emissions reduction strategies across all sectors, be it agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and others.”

But he argued those industries could not be left behind, issuing a rallying cry to banks, super funds and insurers not to walk away in the transition to lower emissions.

“There is a message here for business: opportunities will abound and it will be those businesses that recognise these trends and put plans in place to adapt that will have the most promising futures,” he said.

‘At the same time, there is a message to Australian banks, super funds and insurers. If you support the objective of net zero, do not walk away from the very sectors of our economy that will need investment to successfully transition.”

Originally published as Barnaby Joyce has ‘no problems’ with net-zero target that protects regional Australia

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails