Barnaby Joyce has threatened to pull his support for the Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee if it places emissions targets on the agriculture sector.
He said it’s “nutcase stuff” to hear that the 26% target for pollution in the electricity sector under the Neg will increase pressure on sectors like agriculture to cut emissions so Australia can comply with international climate change commitments.
He said if the government allowed that to happen it would lose his support.
“If we go down that path then forget it, I’m out, see you later, good bye,” Joyce told Sky News on Tuesday evening.
“That’s just nut-case stuff. I mean we are sick of having all these caveats placed on us by green groups, by well-intentioned, well-paid people in Giorgio Armani suits, sitting back and pontificating about the world, and then leaving the bill [for taxpayers].
“No, we are not paying the bill for that. Those days are over,” he said.
Activist groups have been intensifying efforts to persuade Australia’s states and territories to demand the 26% emissions reduction target in the Neg to be ramped up, partly to save thousands of renewable energy jobs.
A projection from Green Energy Markets, funded by GetUp, showed up to 15,000 jobs in large scale renewables projects in Queensland and Victoria are at risk unless the Neg’s emissions reduction targets are increased.
A separate analysis by progressive thinktank the Australia Institute has also warned a 26% target for pollution in the electricity sector will increase pressure on sectors like agriculture to reduce emissions to comply with international climate change commitments.
Echoing recent arguments from the conservative Liberal MP Craig Kelly, the Australia Institute said imposing a 26% target in agriculture would mean farmers would have to cull their herds.
“In 2030, this would include 2.9 million fewer beef cattle, 8 million fewer sheep, 290,000 fewer diary cows and 270,000 fewer pigs,” the group says.
It says if the level of ambition for emissions reduction in electricity is increased, that would take pressure off other sectors of the economy where abatement costs are higher.
“The more that electricity generation reduces emissions, the less the agriculture sector needs to do,” the institute says.
Labor state government have been concerned that the Turnbull government might provide subsidies to prolong the life of coal plants as part of a quid pro quo to stop its own MPs from crossing the floor once the Neg legislation gets to federal parliament.
They have also signalled they want the scheme to be made easier to adjust to a higher emissions reduction target rather than with low ambition locked in for a decade.
But Joyce warned on Tuesday – during an interview with Sky News host Peta Credlin – that after the losses in the Longman and Braddon byelections on the weekend, Coalition MPs will be far less willing to countenance policies that may turn electorates against them at the next federal election.
He said the Turnbull government needed to make power prices its first priority, and households didn’t want to hear about the Paris climate agreement.
“They do not want to hear about your solo, cavalier approach to changing the temperature of the globe,” he said.
Joyce said he believed the Turnbull government had time to revive its electoral fortunes, but must listen properly to voters’ concerns, particularly on energy prices.