CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s government confirmed Thursday that it refused to allow climate change goals to be written into a proposed free trade deal with Britain, as pressure mounts on it to make more ambitious commitments to cut carbon emissions.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the trade deal under negotiation with Britain was not the document to include U.N. goals to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures, and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.)
“It wasn’t a climate agreement; it was a trade agreement,” Morrison said.
“In trade agreements, I deal with trade issues. In climate agreements, I deal with climate issues,” he added.
British ministers had agreed to bow to pressure from Australia to drop binding commitments to the Paris climate change agreement from the bilateral trade deal, Sky News reported citing an email from an unnamed British official sent last month.
The report angered environmentalists who questioned Britain’s commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions ahead of hosting a U.N. climate summit, known as COP26, in Scotland in November.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said climate targets were “never part of free trade agreements that Australia enters into.”
“This agreement recognizes we’re signed up to Paris and that we’ll meet our Paris targets, which we will do hands down,” Tehan told Radio 4BC.
“We got a fantastic outcome both for Australia and the U.K. in that F.T.A., which we’re seeking to finalize at the moment,” Tehan added, referring to a free trade agreement.
Reducing emissions is a politically fraught issue in Australia, which is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquified natural gas. The nation is also one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita because of its heavy reliance on coal-fired power.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt said in a statement on Thursday that coal remained Australia’s largest export after iron ore and “that won’t be changing any time soon.”
This followed U.N. Special Adviser on Climate Change Selwin Hart this week urging Australia to phase out coal.