Glasgow summit 2021: UK talks tough on climate ahead of Glasgow summit

UK High Commissioner Vicki Treadell. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
UK High Commissioner Vicki Treadell. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The omission of climate targets from a UK-Australia free trade agreement would be "unthinkable", according to Britain's top diplomat in Canberra, who argues climate action is an economic opportunity.

British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell has also reaffirmed her government's expectation that Australia would bring more ambitious emission reduction targets to the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November.

The Canberra Times conducted a wide-ranging interview with Ms Treadell ahead of the climate Glasgow summit, which will be used push nations to cut emissions at the scale and urgency needed to keep the Paris temperature targets within reach.

As incoming president of the climate conference, the UK has been spearheading the push for stronger global action, setting their own ambitious targets while publicly urging other nations to follow their lead.

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The UK has a target of cutting emissions by 78 per cent of 1990 levels by 2035, and has its net zero by 2050 aim enshrined in law. That compares to Australia's target of cutting emissions by 26-28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 and its preference, as distinct from a firm commitment, to achieve carbon neutrality by mid century.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and trade minister Dan Tehan have since confirmed Australia did ask for targets to be removed, arguing that a trade pact wasn't the right place to be negotiating environmental agreements.

The "in-principle" agreement announced in June included a reference to the Paris agreement, but did not include the specific temperature targets.

The UK government at the time strongly rejected any suggestions that the final agreement wouldn't include climate targets.

While she unable to comment on specifics while negotiations were ongoing, Ms Treadell reiterated that the deal would include a "substantive article on climate change" which reflected both nations' commitment to Paris.

"As you would appreciate, it is unthinkable that we would not have a substantive article [on climate change] in any free trade agreement that we reach," she said.

The high commissioner will on Wednesday host an online forum with political and corporate leaders to discuss the "business case" for climate action.

NSW environment minister Matt Kean will deliver a keynote speech to the "Racing to Zero" event, which includes the chief executives of Macquarie Group, Origin Energy and Lendlease among its panellists.

Ms Treadell said the UK saw climate action as an economic - and trade - opportunity.

"From our point of view, climate is as much an economic agenda ... and indeed the case for climate is an economic one," she said.

"It is about the jobs of the future, it is about transitioning our economy."

Countries attending the Glasgow summit are being asked to bring with them "ambitious" 2030 targets which align with the goal of reaching net zero emissions globally by the middle of the century.

Asked if the Morrison government needed to set higher targets, Ms Treadell said her prime minister had made it clear that he was looking for "higher ambition from all countries".

"And that includes Australia," she said.

Climate change will be among the top items on the agenda when Mr Morrison holds talks with his US, Indian and Japanese counterparts in Washington later this week.

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This story UK talks tough on climate ahead of crunch Glasgow summit first appeared on The Canberra Times.