Leading Australian industry groups have warned that the government has failed to consult them on a promised long-term emissions reduction strategy, despite it planning to present it at pivotal climate talks in Glasgow in just 80 days.
The government has been saying for more than 18 months that the strategy is in development and has promised to release it publicly and to the UN before the Glasgow talks in November.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has faced increased pressure over his stance this week after the UN’s climate panel released a major report showing “unequivocal” human influence on the atmosphere, ocean and land.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Australia would experience worsening heat extremes, bushfires, marine and land heatwaves and rising sea levels. The report has intensified calls for the government to introduce policies to drive deeper emissions cuts before 2030.
Morrison continued to resist calls to commit Australia to a 2050 net zero emissions target and to improve the government’s six-year-old target to cut emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030 based on 2005 levels – a goal a senior US government climate official this described as insufficient.
The government has remained tight-lipped over details of its long term strategy or the timing of its release.
The Australian Industry Group, the country’s largest employer group, told Guardian Australia it had not been consulted on the strategy. It said it should include the 2050 net zero goal.
Tennant Reed, Ai Group’s climate, energy and environment policy adviser, said it was unusual there had not been consultation with interest groups about the strategy given there had been with climate policy, including the government’s technology investment roadmap, and the target it took to the 2015 Paris climate summit.
He said broad consultation was “much more likely to identify the key issues and best solutions, and build consensus around them”.
Reed said the long term strategy should include a medium-term emissions goal and a “clear long-term national goal of net zero emissions by 2050 to guide government policy and private investment”. It should assess the economic and social impacts of both climate change and measures taken to lessen its effects, as well as international trends, he said.
“That is a tall order, but within the capabilities of the Australian government,” he said.
Reed said he expected the government’s technology roadmap – which sets so-called “stretch goals” for reducing the cost of carbon capture and storage, soil carbon and low-carbon steel and hydrogen – would form part of the strategy.
Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, said the council was yet to be consulted on the strategy, but would welcome being approached.
He said council research had found investment in large-scale clean energy projects had fallen to a five-year low, and the country needed a plan to turn that around.
“Without a clear plan for emissions reduction, Australia risks not being able to attract the levels of investment seen in many other countries who are experiencing surging investment, particularly in solar and wind,” he said.
The primary oil and gas lobby group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (Appea), also said while it was regularly consulted on climate policy it had not been asked for input into the strategy.
Damian Dwyer, Appea’s deputy chief executive, said its position was that gas had fewer emissions than coal when burned for electricity and was used in manufacturing for jobs that “renewables simply cannot do”. He said “the strategy should recognise that “demand for gas is growing and that our product can help Australia and the world reduce emissions”.
The International Energy Agency has said there is no room for any new fossil fuel projects, including new gas fields, if the world wants to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Australia’s biggest electricity consumer, the Tomago aluminium smelter in New South Wales, said earlier this week it would be powered almost entirely by renewables by 2029.
The government has been saying for more than a year that it is developing the strategy. In February last year, the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, said the government would take it to the international Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow which at that time were scheduled for November that year.
In late December, the government reiterated its 2015 target as part of a resubmission to the UN of what is known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – the pledge each signatory to the climate convention was expected to make under the Paris agreement, and is being asked to improve before Glasgow.
Analysis of Australia’s NDC has founds its targets are consistent with global warming of more than 2C.
Guardian Australia asked Taylor’s office when it planned to release the long-term strategy, if it would include new targets and who had been consulted during its development.
None of those contained details of the strategy or when it would be released. At the press conference, Morrison said commitments to reduce emissions “are backed up by plans, and we don’t make them lightly.”
He said Australians “deserve to know the implications and the costs and what the plans are”, that he had done that before the last election and “I will do that again as we go into the commitments later this year.”