https://www.bbc.com-Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Scott Morrison had said he may skip the world’s biggest climate conference since 2015
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will now attend the COP26 UN climate conference after weeks of initial hesitation.
Global leaders will meet in Glasgow next month to negotiate a new deal to stall rising global temperatures.
Mr Morrison drew criticism globally when he indicated he would boycott the meeting last month.
Australia, a large producer of coal and gas, is under pressure to commit to stronger climate action,
Its climate policies and emissions reductions are ranked among the worst in the OECD.
“I confirmed my attendance at the Glasgow summit, which I’m looking forward to attending. It is an important event,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Friday.
Climate activists had slated Mr Morrison for not committing to attend, and it was being seen as a diplomatic snub to the UK, a close ally of Australia.
In an interview to the BBC, Prince Charles earlier expressed surprise at Mr Morrison’s comments, urging leaders to act urgently to combat climate change.
COP26 will be held between 31 October and 15 November in Scotland’s largest city.
It will be the biggest climate change conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015.
Mr Morrison had cited the challenges of Covid as a reason he might not attend, saying he had already served a great deal of quarantine.
But Australia is beginning to make plans to end quarantine requirements.
Many countries have set ambitious targets to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but Australia has refused to do so.
It has committed to a 26% cut on its 2005 emissions by 2030 – a target frequently criticised as too weak.
Experts say Australia needs to commit to a 47% cut by 2030 if it is to meet the UN goal of keeping temperature rise below or within 1.5C.
Australia is one of the largest emitters on a per capita basis because its energy grid is still largely reliant on coal power.
Media caption, Prince Charles was among those who urged Scott Morrison to attend COP26
The conservative government has faced months of pressure, both at home and overseas, to improve its climate policies. It is expected to reveal higher emission targets next week.
“The government will be finalising its position to take to the summit. We’re working through those issues,” Morrison said on Friday.
Many rural parts of Australia are dependent on coal, gas and farming.
Coal is Australia’s second-most lucrative export and it expects demand to continue for at least the next decade.
“The plan that I am taking forward together with my colleagues is about ensuring that our regions are strong, that our regions jobs are not only protected but have opportunities for the future,” Mr Morrison said.