The top British envoy in Canberra has confirmed that the UK is encouraging Australia to increase its emission reduction target for the 2030s, indicating it is not enough for nations to commit to net zero by 2050.

Before the G7 meeting in Cornwall late next week, where climate is set to be a key focus, the British high commissioner, Vicki Treadell, said the UK was asking all countries to lift their interim emission targets to align with the Paris goal of seeking to limit heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Treadell described carbon border tariffs as a live issue for discussion, saying countries that were stepping up their climate commitments did not want to be “importing carbon emissions” through their supply chains.

She indicated that the best way to avoid such tariffs was “for all nations to have a high level of ambition, not just for net zero by 2050” but also to upgrade interim targets like the UK had done.

The comments follow Scott Morrison’s declaration that Australia “will make our path to net zero” but “we will not have it determined by others”.

The prime minister – who has so far resisted a formal commitment to net zero by 2050 and has given no indication of increasing the 2030 target – told a mining industry event on Wednesday that Australia would act in accordance with its national interest and focus on jobs.

Morrison said Australia would take “the Frank Sinatra approach” to climate policy. “We’re going to do it our way in Australia, the Australian way,” he said.

Treadell addressed reporters in Canberra on Thursday as the UK prepares to host the G7 summit. Leaders from Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa have also been invited.

The high commissioner said the UK had “made very clear that climate change is our number one foreign policy priority”, noting the G7 event would be followed by the hosting of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

“We need to fight and build back better from Covid, and in that, our proposition is that you can create a greener, more prosperous future – that links back to our climate change priorities.”

Australian ministers have signalled their opposition to carbon border tariffs – an idea that is being considered by a number of major players including the UK, the European Union, the United States and Japan to prevent “carbon leakage” where local production moves to countries with weaker climate policies.

Treadell said the idea of such tariffs was “something that is being discussed” but she did not know where the G7 would land on the issue.

“But let’s be clear, for countries that are ambitious and set interim targets – 2030, 2035, 2040 – in order to have an assurance of achieving net zero by 2050, for all the hard work we do within our countries, what we don’t want to end up doing is importing carbon emissions through supply chains of what we buy in,” she said.

“So it is a tool, it is a policy option that people are looking at, but we will need agreement at an international level on that and how it might apply.”

But Treadell said the real solution was for all nations to increase their level of ambition in both the medium and long term.

She noted providing an assurance of reaching net zero by 2050 required setting mid-term targets aligned to that goal. The British envoy pointed to Boris Johnson’s announcement in May that the UK would legislate a pledge to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

Asked if the UK was seeking to persuade Australia to do more on the 2030s targets, Treadell said: “We’re asking all nations to do that.”

When pressed to confirm that included direct conversations with the Australian government encouraging it to increase its level of ambition, she said: “Yes, prime minister Johnson at his last conversation with prime minister Morrison made this point.”

Treadell was diplomatic when asked if Australia had been receptive. She said Australia was “working hard” and the UK welcomed the Morrison government’s technology roadmap. She said the UK wanted to work with Australia on technology solutions.

“As the second largest investor in Australia, British investment will be part of that solution,” she said.

“If you look at what the Australian government is saying, they’re clear now that getting to net zero [by 2050], preferably sooner, is where the language stands at the moment.”

The Coalition has promoted a “technology not taxes” approach to emissions reduction to convince allies that Australia is serious about making the transition. But a senior Biden administration official told reporters in April that Australia could not rely on technology alone to reach net zero emissions by 2050.



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