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Nationals split on net zero as McCormack backs Morrison’s ‘preference’

The federal Nationals split over climate change policy has deepened, with former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack declaring he is “very comfortable” with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “preference” of adopting a net zero emissions target by 2050.

In his first interview since losing the federal Nationals leadership on June 21, Mr McCormack told The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age it may be necessary to adopt the policy – which Mr Morrison has edged the Coalition towards – as long as Australia’s agricultural sector is protected.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and his predecessor Michael McCormack.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and his predecessor Michael McCormack. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“In the future if our trade, our beef and sheep meat and our wool depends on it for example then we should have the conversation about going to net zero,” Mr McCormack said.

“I am very comfortable with where the Prime Minister has situated us, in that ‘preferably net zero’ [position]. He hasn’t changed his position and nor have I. It’s 29 years away, who knows what technology could be available in the next 29 years?

“Farming will play a huge part in helping us lower emissions, with soil sequestration for example. And until we can have the nuclear [power] discussion then carbon farming will play an important role. It won’t cost us vast tracts of land, farmers can still grow crops.”

Mr McCormack cautioned that: “Net zero isn’t the discussion being had in regional Australia, it’s COVID and borders and masks those sort of things.”

The former deputy prime minister’s comments represent a direct challenge to successor Barnaby Joyce and his backers, who used the net zero issue as a stalking horse to tear down Mr McCormack.

In an interview with The Australian Financial Review published Saturday, Mr Joyce signalled his willingness to push back against the Liberals on the issue and, speaking in third person, declared: “The likelihood of Joyce getting endorsement from his party room to agree to net zero is zero”.

Nationals MPs Michael McCormack and Darren Chester during debate in the House of Representatives.

Nationals MPs Michael McCormack and Darren Chester during debate in the House of Representatives.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

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