Junior partner in Australian coalition gov't says it won't rush into net zero

FILE PHOTO: Birds and a plane are seen flying above emission from the chimneys of a chemical plant located near Port Botany in Sydney, Australia June 2, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray

CANBERRA (Reuters) - The junior partner in Australia's coalition government said on Monday it would not be rushed into a decision on whether to support a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Morrison last week said he would attend the U.N. COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where he was expected to present world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, with Australia's updated climate ambitions of net zero by 2050.

Morrison had sought the agreement of the National party, the government's coalition partner, but its leader Barnaby Joyce said rural-focused lawmakers were unable to agree during a four-hour meeting on Sunday.

Joyce said the party will meet again on Monday and warned against efforts to pressure them.

"We're not chained to a script. We have our own party and our own party room for a distinct purpose," Joyce told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"If someone believes they are being forced into a corner, you know what they are going to do, they are going to say no."

Joyce said his party is concerned about the impact of net zero on farming and coal mining, but Morrison faces growing pressure to reach an agreement before the climate summit.

"Morrison can't afford no agreement. He would look like a weak leader on a world stage just months before an election," said Haydon Manning, professor of politics at Flinders University in South Australia.

Morrison has said Australia wanted to achieve net zero "as soon as possible and preferably by 2050" and it expects to beat its pledge to cut carbon emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels by 2030.

The prime minister must call a general election by May 2022 and he needs to both appease moderates in his Liberal Party who are pressing for climate action and retain support of the National party.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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