Scientists and climate action campaigners say Scott Morrison has done nothing to reassure the world that Australia has an achievable and responsible plan to tackle climate change.
The prime minister has outlined Australia's plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050 during a short address at the pivotal COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
He has told world leaders that driving down the costs of low- and no-emissions technologies is crucial to Australia's net zero ambitions, and its aspirations to help developing nations do the same.
But he refused to formally ramp up Australia's 2030 emissions target, one of the big asks of the conference to avoid the risks of runaway climate change.
Mr Morrison told the conference Australia would stick to its six-year-old promise to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent cut by 2030, but would likely reach 35 per cent by then.
He said the technology-driven plan would help Australia and other nations get across the net-zero line.
"It will be our scientists, our technologists, our engineers, our entrepreneurs, our industrialists and our financiers that will actually chart the path to net zero. And it is up to us as leaders of governments to back them in," Mr Morrison said.
Dr Roger Dargaville is an Australian climate scientist and energy solutions specialist with Monash University who has spent years understanding how to best combine technologies to achieve low carbon, affordable and reliable power.
He is also vice president of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, which warned this week that "any delay in reducing emissions will increase the practical and economic costs of avoiding dangerous climate change and place a greater burden on future generations".
He said there was nothing new in the prime minister's address to allay concerns among scientists and energy solutions experts about the lack of a price on carbon to achieve a hurried transition away from fossil fuels.
"We agree that technology is going to be a very important part of the solution," he told AAP.
But he said achieving net zero would be "extremely difficult and probably unachievable" without an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax to force emission cuts across all sectors of the economy.
Dr Dargaville said it was an inescapable fact that ongoing coal exports, which Australia's plan says will continue to 2050 and beyond, "is incompatible with a global net-zero target".
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama met with Mr Morrison in Glasgow and said Pacific island nations would "continue to inform" Australia they expect more than what is on the table.
He told reporters that when he asked about Australia's approval of new coal projects, including three mines in the lead-up to COP26, Mr Morrison referred him to the nation's net zero plan.
"Whether that will work I really don't know. And nobody knows. Everybody says his plan should have been out eight years ago," Mr Bainimarama told Nine newspapers.
Climate action groups, including the Climate Council and the Australian Conservation Foundation, welcomed Mr Morrison's pledge to offer an additional $500 million in climate finance to Pacific and southeast Asian countries, taking Australia's total commitments to $2 billion.
But the lack of a formal pledge to do more on emissions by the end of this decade continues to cause alarm, after the United Nations said all countries should essentially halve emissions by then to keep warming to 1.5C.
The Climate Council's chief councillor, former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery, said two words in Mr Morrison's address worried him deeply.
"He said that over time the Australian way can deliver net zero. And the one thing we don't have is time," he told reporters in Glasgow.
"When I think about the 15 years we've got ... to act effectively, the Australian way looks like an Australian crawl. It's just not going to be good enough to get us there."
Australian Associated Press
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