Days before the UN COP26 climate conference, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a new target for the country to reach net zero emissions by 2050, outlining a plan that relies heavily on technology investment and development, rather than legislation and taxes to achieve climate goals.

According to the PM’s office, the plan aims to preserve the country’s industries during the net zero transition, without putting jobs at risk, keep energy prices low, and establish Australia as a leader in low emissions technologies.

Morrison said:

“Australia now has a target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and we have a clear plan for achieving it. The Plan outlines responsible, practical action to achieve net zero that is in our national interest.”

Morrison’s plan is based on a few key principles, including focusing on technology to achieve emissions reductions and drive down energy costs, rather than relying on taxes or legislation to reach the country’s climate goals. The country has planned $20 billion in investments in low emissions technology, which it anticipates will unlock at least another $80 billion of public and private investments in areas including clean hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy storage.

The government outlined its anticipated sources of emissions reductions through 2050, with 20% of the reductions already being achieved since 2005, a further 40% reduction expected through the current technology investment roadmap, global technology trends contributing 15%, and 10% derived from high-integrity offsets. For the remaining 15% needed to get to net zero, the plan relies on “future technology breakthroughs.”

Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor stated that the plan will not involve shutting down coal or gas production or displace agricultural land, and will not include establishing a carbon tax. Taylor said:

“Our Plan continues the policies and initiatives that we have already put in place and that have proven to be successful, while preserving existing industries and jobs, and supporting regional Australia.”

The new plan did not include new interim targets, but maintained the existing 2030 goal of a 26-28% emissions reduction. According to the government’s statement, Australia is on track to exceed this goal, with emissions reductions expected to reach 35% by 2030.

Sustainability-focused groups welcomed the government’s 2050 net zero pledge, though expressed concerns with the plan to maintain fossil fuel production.

Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF-Australia, said that he was “very disappointed” in the plan’s continued support for fossil fuel exports and its use of CCS. O’Gorman added:

“CCS has been used as a delaying tactic for more than a decade, with billions of dollars sunk into a technology that to-date has failed. Australia needs to be doubling down on renewable energy.”

Investors also warned that the lack of updated interim targets could end up driving investment away from the country. Rebecca Mikula-Wright, CEO of the Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC), said:

“Business as usual on Australia’s current 2030 emissions target remains an acute financial risk to the Australian economy. Investors are likely to continue to seek short-term investment opportunities in other markets at a cost to the Australian economy.”