Mathias Cormann calls for ‘ambitious’ plan to reach net-zero emissions

Former finance minister Mathias Cormann has called on the world’s richest nations to develop an “ambitious and effective” plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in his first speech as head of the OECD.

Speaking in Paris, Mr Cormann used his inaugural address to the organisation’s ministerial council to argue the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic had delivered the world an opportunity to reset economic growth on a more environmentally sustainable path.

Mathias Cormann, in his first speech as OECD secretary-general, has argued countries need to set ambitious plans to achieve net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Cormann, a key contributor to the Abbott government’s removal of Australia’s carbon price and the minerals resource rent tax, overcame enormous diplomatic hurdles to lead the Paris-based think tank earlier this year.

In his speech, the former West Australian senator set out his policy agenda that would be headed by the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The OECD this week said global growth had contracted by 3.5 per cent through 2020 but was on track to expand by 5.8 per cent this year and by another 4.4 per cent in 2022.

Mr Cormann said the OECD should aim to optimise the post-pandemic recovery with “stronger, sustainable, cleaner” and more inclusive growth.

“Our efforts to facilitate the COVID-recovery provide a remarkable opportunity to reset policies and practices in favour of more sustainable growth, in particular in terms of our climate and inclusive growth objectives,” he said.

“Politics at its best is always about building a better future. We must always be mindful of the issue of intergenerational equity and fairness.

“Across all of our policy areas, we must focus on how we can build a better world with better opportunities for our children and young people of today and of tomorrow.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison in April said Australia could beat the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 but has so far refused to make an explicit commitment to the goal.

He told a meeting of global leaders assembled by US President Joe Biden that Australia would focus on developing low emission technology. Australia would only set a more ambitious target if it could guarantee the economic outcome.

Mr Cormann said he saw the OECD’s role as driving and promoting global leadership on ambitious and effective action to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Addressing climate change effectively and efficiently is a truly global challenge, which requires global leadership and co-operation,” he said.

“It is good to see that more and more countries are committing to net-zero emissions as soon as possible and by no later than 2050. The challenge is how to turn those commitments into outcomes and to achieve our objective in a cost-effective, economically responsible and publicly supported way that will not leave people behind.”

Mr Cormann, who retired from the Federal Parliament last year, said the OECD should build on its plan for closer engagement with China by looking to expand that to the Asia-Pacific region including ASEAN members.

“Low-income countries need our co-operation more than ever – to ensure access to vaccinations, to trade, to financing to help them deal with the climate challenge,” he said.

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