(Bloomberg) -- Coal-rich Australia, a block on international climate progress for much of the past decade, is on a charm offensive to showcase its new zeal for emissions reduction and to win backing to host a key UN summit.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Labor government, which has legislated more ambitious action on greenhouse gases since winning office in May, wants global support for a plan for the 31st United Nations Conference of the Parties — better known as COP31 — to take place in Australia and Pacific nations in 2026.
Clinching the event would cap the nation’s efforts to restore its standing as an international climate leader, and comes as Albanese’s administration prepares additional steps to push for a faster transition and seeks Parliamentary approval this week for a flagship policy to rein in the country’s worst polluters.
“The shift in the electorate, particularly around support for climate action, is a pretty clear signal,” Kristin Tilley, Australia’s climate ambassador — a role that was reinstated last year — said in an interview in Brussels. “The government is feeling very confident that it has a pretty strong mandate.”
Australia faces competition from Turkey to run COP31 and is also being pushed to address questions on the exact role of climate-vulnerable Pacific Island states that are intended to act as co-hosts.
Yet Tilley’s task is being aided by the country’s recent policy shifts, including plans to revise the safeguard mechanism — the key tool to regulate industrial emissions — to compel around 215 of the most polluting sites to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 4.9% a year by 2030.
Read more: Australia’s New Climate Politics Will Reshape its Entire Economy
“It is a key pillar of Australia meeting its emissions targets,” Tilley said following meetings last week with EU officials, including the bloc’s climate chief Frans Timmermans. “This is a really important piece of legislation.”
The policy revision will be voted on from Thursday afternoon, Albanese said Wednesday, after Labor struck a deal with the minor opposition Australian Greens party that should guarantee its passage into law.
After years of tensions, the new progress is being acknowledged by other nations, according to Tilley. Now, when Australian officials arrive for global meetings “there’s a standing ovation, round of applause for walking in,” she said. “The door is open internationally for many more conversations on climate.”
Still, Australia’s government has faced criticism for its continued backing of gas projects and coal exports. Vanuatu’s climate change minister Ralph Regenvanu has raised concerns over Pacific Island nations agreeing to co-host a COP31 event while Albanese’s administration continues to support fossil fuels developments.
The nation intends to keep up momentum on new action, according to Tilley. Australia is working on an emissions cutting target for 2035, which it will present as soon as next year, she said.
Officials are also open to supporting the European Union’s push for stronger language on climate action at this year’s COP28 summit in Dubai. That could include backing for the bloc’s push to see global emissions peak by 2025 and for the phasing out of all fossil fuels, she said.
--With assistance from Ben Westcott.
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