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Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has badged the multibillion-dollar inland rail link a “great” carbon abatement project, raising hopes within the Liberal Party that the junior Coalition partner may yet agree to adopt net zero emissions by 2050.
While defending the project in federal Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Joyce said each train on the 1700-kilometre link between Melbourne and Brisbane would remove from the road 150 semi-trailers, each of which uses about 600 litres of diesel.
Barnaby Joyce has given the government hope he may agree to net zero emissions by 2050. Alex Ellinghausen
This, he said, made the project “one of the great carbon abatement policies that goes to show how the Prime Minister and myself and our colleagues are using technology to take this nation ahead”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to make the commitment to net zero by 2050 before the election and preferably before the global climate change summit in Glasgow in November.
To get the Nationals on side, he has pledged to spare regional Australia from having to make any sacrifice, and says the government will outline a road map towards the target using technology, not taxes.
Mr Joyce’s unprompted reference to the train being a technological mechanism that would help reduce emissions buoyed senior Liberals, who say it shows Mr Joyce is trying to convince his colleagues and there continues to be a “positive and practical dialogue” with Mr Morrison.
“He’s demonstrating that you reduce emissions through technology and positive measures that help regional communities,” one said.
Mr Joyce seized the Nationals leadership from Michael McCormack in June, in part to try to stop the government adopting the net zero policy.
In a subsequent interview with The Australian Financial Review, Mr Joyce said he would lose his leadership if he acceded to Mr Morrison, who, in turn, is under significant pressure internationally and from within his own party to adopt the policy.
Mr Joyce has since backed away from his absolute stance and is negotiating with the Prime Minister.
This article first appeared on www.afr.com
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