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Australia sets target for net zero emissions by 2050 ahead of COP26

In this image made from video released by ASEAN Business Advisory Council Brunei, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers a keynote speech from Canberra on Oct. 25, 2021. (ASEAN Business Advisory Council Brunei via AP)

SYDNEY (Kyodo) -- Australia has set an official target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, but will not increase its goal for 2030, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Tuesday.

    The country, one of the world's highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gasses, has been under mounting global pressure to take stronger action on emissions reduction ahead of a U.N. climate change summit that starts in Glasgow, Scotland, on Sunday.

    Morrison will go to the conference, also known as COP26, and confirm Australia's commitment to the new target.

    "Australia now has a target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and we have a clear plan for achieving it," Morrison told reporters. "The plan outlines responsible, practical action to achieve net zero that is in our national interest."

    While Canberra's commitment to matching similar net zero targets set by Britain and the United States would be welcomed in Glasgow, Morrison will likely still face criticism for keeping the current 2030 target of reducing emissions by a relatively low 26 to 28 percent of 2005 levels.

    Morrison brushed aside the criticism, however, saying official projections show that Australia is on track to reduce emissions by up to 35 percent by 2030.

    Australia is the leading per capita emitter of greenhouse gasses among advanced countries, due largely to its dependence on coal for most of its electricity as well as on automobiles for transportation over its vast continent.

    The government's long-term emissions reduction plan released Tuesday will rely largely on the development of low emissions technologies, such as with an investment of AU$20 billion ($14.9 billion) in the technology over the next decade.

    Angus Taylor, the minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction, said the plan to achieve net zero emissions would not shut down coal or gas production in Australia, one of the world's top exporters of coal and gas.

    According to the plan, Australia will continue its traditional energy exports "for as long as our customers demand them."

    Climate experts have criticized the long-awaited plan as largely symbolic. Christian Downie, an associate professor at the Australian National University, said the plan "represents a change in marketing, but almost no change in policy."

    "Committing to 2050 targets without immediate actions to get there is simply another form of delay. We can't rely only on future plans or future technologies," he said.

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