Labor says it will “take 146 years” to reach net-zero emissions under the Coalition’s current climate projections.
Addressing a Pacific islands forum on Friday evening, the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said his government would not need the controversial plan to use Kyoto credits amassed before 2020 to reach its 2030 Paris emissions reduction target.
“Today I can announce that Australia is very confident that we will now achieve our 2030 targets without the need to draw on our carry-over credits,” he told the virtual forum.
The backdown on using the credits follows sustained international criticism over the plan, including accusations at last year’s climate conference in Madrid that Australia was trying to cheat to meet its target. Experts have said the credits have no legal standing under the Paris agreement.
Morrison was this week told he would not be given a speaking slot at a global climate ambition summit over the weekend because Australia had not made new commitments to address the climate crisis. He chose to make the announcement about the credits at the Pacific meeting instead.
The government this week also released emissions projections that it claimed showed it was on track to meet its 2030 target under the Paris agreement of of 26% to 28% cut below 2005 levels.
In reality, it shows Australia is only on track to make a 22% cut over that timeframe.
Labor’s climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, on Saturday accused the government of misrepresenting the data.
He called for the government to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, as New Zealand has, and to work harder to meet the Paris target.
“The government’s projections clearly show there will only be a reduction in emissions between 2020 and 2030 of less than 7%,” Butler said. “At that rate, it will take 146 years to get to net-zero emissions.
“Electricity is the only sector with considerable emissions reduction and that is due to state government policies and households choosing to install rooftop solar.”
Pacific island nations have long called for Australia and New Zealand, as regional leaders, to do more on climate.
PIF’s secretary general, Dame Meg Taylor, also wants Australia to adopt the 2050 target and commit to phasing out fossil fuels.
She told ABC radio on Friday some smaller island nations were looking at technology to strengthen infrastructure and eyeballing China’s controversial land reclamation activities in the disputed South China Sea.
Climate is a sensitive Coalition policy area and Morrison has beefed up his language on the perceived emissions credits.
“Those credits that have been earned have been earned by farmers investing in changes,” he told reporters in Canberra earlier on Friday.
More than 70 nations are speaking at the online climate ambition summit, including China, which has recently committed to net zero emissions by 2060.
Last week, Morrison was looking forward to taking part and saw it as a chance to talk up Australia’s achievements.
Greenpeace Australia said it was embarrassing the prime minister was not speaking at the UN summit.
• Australian Associated Press contributed to this report