Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Saturday sought to shift the responsibility for tackling the climate crisis onto companies, rather than governments, asking them to present more sustainable options for consumers.
Businesses should change their “corporate mindset” and drive down the costs of greener products in order to reduce emissions, Mr Morrison said in an interview with the Australian newspaper The Age.
Mr Morrison’s country is the largest exporter of coal in the world, and his administration has come in for sustained criticism as a laggard on climate action in the run-up to and during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
"Consumers’ choices I think are pretty clear now, and the corporate sector has got to change their mindset," the prime minister said.
"There are 20 million people in Australia, we’re an affluent society and economy. You sell us a car at the right price and we’ll buy it," Mr Morrison said.
The government cannot solve the challenge of rising emissions and bring them down through mandates or by fixing a price on carbon, he said.
The world’s companies are going to solve this problem because they’re the ones who make electric cars,” he said. “The governments don’t do any of those things.”
He added that it doesn’t mean that the government doesn’t have a role to play, saying “of course it does, but it’s not the answer. It’s helping support the answer. And ultimately, consumer choice will drive it.”
Australia was named the “colossal fossil” by an activist group for its approach to climate change policy during the climate talks in Glasgow that were due to close on Friday and extended into the weekend.
In October, Mr Morrison adopted a target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, he refused to set out a path of legislation or policy changes to meet that goal, and instead asked consumers and companies to act to reduce their emissions.
The Australian government also introduced a financial aid programme this week to back electric vehicles, as well as a billion-dollar (£550m) fund to invest in companies that can introduce new low-emissions technology.
But Mr Morrison’s administration has also blocked a number of attempts to drive forward climate action at Cop26, rejecting a global pledge, led by the European Union and the United States, to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
Efforts by previous Australian governments to legislate to reduce carbon emissions have led to deep political division, with two former prime ministers ousted by their own parties.
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