Scott Morrison contradicts energy advice, saying Paris targets can be met 'at a canter'

Prime minister claims Australia will easily meet its obligations without an emissions reduction policy

Scott Morrison (right) poses for photographs with Australian energy minister Angus Taylor last week.
Scott Morrison (right) with energy minister Angus Taylor last week. The PM told 2GB radio lower power prices were more important than lower emissions. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Scott Morrison is continuing to insist that Australia will meet its Paris climate commitments “in a canter” despite the government having no emissions reduction policies to achieve that result.

The prime minister used a radio interview on Wednesday afternoon to declare “the business-as-usual model gets us there in a canter” – which contradicts advice from the Energy Security Board that says business as usual will mean the electricity sector will “fall short of the emissions reduction target of 26% below 2005 levels”.

Even if the the ESB projections are wrong, and the electricity sector managed to reduce emissions by 26% with no policy to drive that result, the Paris target applies across the economy, not just to the electricity sector, and the government’s own data shows emissions in other sectors of the economy are rising.

Morrison told 2GB on Wednesday that business as usual “and technology and the amount of renewable technologies that are already in the system and not being subsidised off into the future means these [Paris] targets are hit”.

A summary of modelling undertaken by the ESB and released only a month ago said if no policy was put in place in the electricity sector – which is the business-as-usual case the prime minister refers to – emissions would fall initially, then flatten out and rise towards the end of the decade to 2030 as forecast demand increased, then dip again in 2029-30.

The ESB said if the national energy guarantee wasn’t implemented, the national electricity market would “fall short of the emissions reduction target of 26% below 2005 levels”.

On Wednesday the prime minister initially said that the renewable energy target was driving up power prices “and that’s why we are stripping [subsidies] out of the system”, then said later in the same interview that the biggest driver of higher power prices was gold-plating of the electricity networks.

Asked by his host on 2GB what was ultimately more important, complying with Australia’s international climate obligations, or lowering power prices, Morrison said: “Power prices.” He counselled against being “distracted by ideological debate”.

The ESB has warned that if governments fail to implement the national energy guarantee – the policy Malcolm Turnbull shelved to try and stave off the civil war that ultimately cost him the prime ministership – that will “prolong the current investment uncertainty, and deny customers more affordable energy”.

The Neg appears dead, but the government signalled it was interested in trying to implement one component of the policy, the reliability obligation, with the states and territories.

The commonwealth was due to meet with the states and territories in late September to drive the process forward, but the states have yet to be summoned to a meeting to consider what, if any, progress can be made.

The new energy minister, Angus Taylor, is working up a package to take to cabinet for consideration.

With internal sensitivities still raw after the implosion of the last parliamentary fortnight, Morrison has been trying to send a signal that the immediate focus is price relief, while resisting calls from conservatives to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

In attempt to defuse the push, Morrison has been arguing that meeting the Paris commitments will have no tangible impact on power prices.