France warns against 'empty' climate talk

French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault urged Australia to commit to steeper emissions cuts.
French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault urged Australia to commit to steeper emissions cuts.

France has warned Australia against "hollow and empty" climate rhetoric and urged the country to commit to stronger 2030 emissions cuts of at least 45 per cent.

Returned ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault issued a thinly veiled warning against becoming "an accidental ally of the remaining (few) who resist action".

"The US, Japan, the UK, the EU, have shown the path by all strongly increasing their already strong commitments. New Zealand just joined. The time for prevarication has ended," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

"Each nation is responsible in its action towards its neighbours, towards the entire world - or words are hollow and empty."

Mr Thebault emphasised Australia was one of the world's largest emitters of carbon dioxide on a per-capita basis.

He stressed the country could pull its weight by committing to cut emissions by at least 45 per cent this decade, labelling it "a slight effort above the 35 per cent (projection)".

"Australia could embark immediately on the necessary transformation of its economy with concrete measures to boost innovation and entrepreneurship," Mr Thebault said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to lift the coalition's 2030 pledge above the 26 to 28 per cent reduction committed to in 2015.

Australia instead took to the COP26 summit in Glasgow an updated projection of a 30 to 35 per cent cut.

Former coalition finance minister Mathias Cormann called for a global carbon price after helping kill off Australia's world-leading mechanism while in government.

Now the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development secretary-general, Mr Cormann touted a globally consistent carbon price as the best way to cut emissions.

"I've always been of the view that if we had a globally sufficiently comprehensive and consistently applied carbon price, that would be the most efficient way to get to net zero by 2050," he told ABC radio.

While serving under the Abbott and Turnbull governments, Mr Cormann helped undo Labor's carbon price, trashed as economically reckless by the coalition.

"Ten years ago, there wasn't an appropriately comprehensive global agreement to price emissions," he said.

"Efforts in individual jurisdictions will only help us reduce global greenhouse gas emissions if they contribute to a net reduction in global emissions."

Mr Morrison at Glasgow sought to position Australia as a country that would help developing nations cut emissions and prepare for natural disasters.

"You must drive the costs of these low emissions technologies down so they're realisable, so they're scalable, so they're affordable, not just in developed countries," he told reporters during a fuel stop in the United Arab Emirates on his way home from COP26.

Mr Morrison declined to criticise China for not attending the conference.

"We weren't there to lecture others ... we were there to focus on what we were going to do," he said.

Australia was one of more than 100 countries to sign a declaration to curb deforestation.

But it refused to join a global commitment to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent this decade.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor insisted Australia was "not setting sector-specific targets".

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese was on a rare unity ticket with the coalition regarding methane emissions.

"We need to drive down emissions as much as possible. But it would have been premature for Australia to sign up to that commitment," he told reporters.

Australian Associated Press