‘No room for complacency’: France urges Scott Morrison to act on 2030 targets | Australia news

France’s ambassador has urged Australia to embrace stronger 2030 emission reduction targets, as he declared there was “no room for complacency” or “procrastination” ahead of the crucial Glasgow summit.

Jean-Pierre Thébault pointedly praised all state and territory governments for already committing to net-zero by 2050, while describing NSW’s recent pledge to halve emissions by the end of this decade as being in “the right direction”.

Thébault called on Australia to “defend the interests of its Pacific neighbours” – for which climate change was “a daily threat” – and to “announce the strong commitments that are needed and expected by all stakeholders”.

The forthright intervention – his first since he returned to Canberra after his recall to Paris over the scrapping of the $90bn submarine deal – comes as the Morrison government seeks to resolve internal dispute over climate policy within days.

New analysis by the Climate Council – published on Thursday – found Australia ranked bottom on climate of all developed countries, and would remain there unless a net-zero pledge was accompanied by a more ambitious 2030 target.

While senior Liberals and Nationals are confident a deal on net zero can be reached, the proposal has implacable critics in the Nationals party room.

That pushback resulted in Morrison abandoning an effort to formally increase the 2030 target in the lead-up to Glasgow, despite pressure from the US and the UK to lift interim targets to help keep the limit of 1.5C of warming within reach.

It is now seen as more likely the government will tout a projected overachievement of the Abbott-era goal of 26 to 28% on 2005 levels.

Thébault said acting swiftly and decisively on the climate crisis was not just “a moral and a political responsibility” but also could be an opportunity.

“There is no room for complacency, for hesitation, anything that could be felt as procrastination. There is no plan B, in the same way that there is no second planet,” he said.

“In Glasgow, in front of the public opinion of the whole planet, the world leaders will face the challenge of the millennium.

“I have no doubt, personally, after about one year of presence here … that Australia has the ability to be a strong voice in Glasgow, and can announce the strong commitments that are needed, and expected by all stakeholders.”

Asked for his opinion on Australia’s 2030 target, Thébault noted there had been “a lot of experts, very respected, very well known here in Australia, who have already said what they thought should be the right thing to be done”. He added that setting targets was key to the success of any strategy.

“Failing to set targets is failing towards the industry, is failing towards the local communities, is failing towards the global public and opinion,” he said.

The Italian ambassador, Francesca Tardioli, who has previously urged the Morrison government to increase its 2030 target, told the same webinar she hoped leaders of G20 nations including Australia took “the bold decisions that are needed to save our planet”.

Italy is hosting the G20 summit in Rome, just before the UK hosts Cop26 in Glasgow, with the prime minister, Scott Morrison, now planning to attend both events.

The British high commissioner, Vicki Treadell, said it was “fantastic” that Morrison had confirmed he would attend.

Treadell did not comment on what Australia should bring to the table, saying she did not want to “get in the way” of the government’s current deliberations.

She argued Glasgow would not be about “words” or “signing up to a target for target’s sake”, but would be about “our actions”.

“Investment decisions are being taken where there is certainty,” Treadell said.

The Climate Council report found Australia was the worst performing of all developed countries on cutting emissions and eliminating fossil fuel use, taking into account both domestic use and exports of coal and gas.

It said there were more than 80 coal projects, five new large gas basins and dozens of smaller gas projects proposed in Australia at a time when it said it would cut emissions, and scientists were urging rapid reductions.

The organisation’s chief climate councillor, Tim Flannery, said net zero by 2050 was “last year’s story”.

“It is the scale and pace of action through the 2020s that matters, and which Glasgow’s success or failure will be measured by,” Flannery said.

But the emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, dismissed the report as “misleading and complete rubbish”, claiming it was “excluding sources of emissions reductions to suit a politically-motivated narrative”.

Bridget McKenzie, a cabinet minister who leads the Nationals in the Senate, warned on Wednesday it could get “ugly” if Morrison committed to net zero without the explicit support of the junior Coalition party.

The former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said it looked “as though our federal government is determined to be literally the last people in Australia” to support net zero.

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