As the government comes under pressure to develop a future climate policy target with the help of their junior coalition partners, the Nationals leader said a move away from fossil fuels would impact other areas of the economy.
“We have to make sure we are protecting jobs, we have to understand that we are protecting the economy,” he said.
“If people move away from it, you have to move away from some of the support that comes in the way of pensions and healthcare because the money won’t be there.”
Senior Nationals MPs have said regional Australia would be most affected by government attempts to commit to net-zero.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the party would need to see any detail before it commits to a plan.
“The fact is, regional Australians have paid most of the bill for reducing emissions,” he told the Nine Network.
“We’ve paid that bill. It is time to square the ledger.
“As National Party members, we’ll work pragmatically together but we need to see the detail.”
Fellow Nationals MP Darren Chester, who’s announced he’s taking time away from the party due to “dysfunctional” leadership and “extreme right-wing” views from other MPs, said a climate policy was needed.
“The prime minister is right – we need a plan, but not just a number in 2050,” he said.
It comes as the prime minister remains non-committal on whether he will attend major UN climate talks in Glasgow in November.
Scott Morrison said a final decision had not been made about his attendance, although Australia will be represented at the conference.
Morrison has just spent a week in the United States meeting with President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who are both locked into the 2050 target, as well as fellow members of the so-called Quad that includes India and Japan.
Morrison said he was patiently working with the Nationals on a deal to reach net zero emissions.
“I’m keen to ensure I bring people together on this so Australians can have confidence we are dealing with climate change, that we care deeply about their concerns about what the change means for them,” he said.
Asked if he was close to a deal with the junior coalition partners, Morrison said: “I don’t get ahead of these things, I’m a patient person when it comes to getting things right.”
Meanwhile, 70 former diplomats and officials have signed an open letter urging the government to end climate policy “inertia”.
“We are concerned that the climate is changing rapidly and without urgent action … the future of life on this planet looks bleak for our children and grandchildren,” former consul-general for eastern Indonesia and deputy ambassador to Greece Richard Mathews said.
The group says key allies across the globe including the US are increasingly voicing concerns that Australia is not “pulling its weight” on climate action.
“Australia’s inertia on commitments undermines our credibility as a regional partner; it undermines our reliability in the minds of our strategic allies; and it will cost us dearly as trading partners,” the letter reads.
“As former diplomats, we see what is happening around the globe, and it concerns us that Australia is not at the leading edge of international action on climate change.”
The country needs to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, they say, and set more ambitious goals to be reached by 2030 too, both before the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November.
Outgoing Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon said the government was at war with itself over future climate policy.
“One former minister has already left the party room, and I’m sure plenty on the right of the debate are threatening to do otherwise,” he told Channel Seven.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt would not comment on whether the Nationals would agree to a net-zero plan, saying discussions had yet to occur within the party.
“We need to see the proposal first, and until I see what is put on the table. I won’t pre-empt it,” he said.
“I can be certain that everyone has the opportunity to have their say.”
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