(MENAFN- Gulf Times)
Australia's climate change minister on Wednesday rejected a proposal to temporarily halt new coal and gas projects in the country, one of the world's top fossil fuel exporters.
The centre-left Labor government committed to more ambitious emissions cuts after it swept to power in May elections, hoping to ditch the country's reputation as a climate laggard.
But the question of winding down Australia's powerful fossil fuel mining sector has been a flashpoint between the government and the Greens party, which won record support at the election.
Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen dismissed the idea of a moratorium on new gas and coal projects when asked by a reporter Wednesday if he would consider the Greens' proposal.
'No,' Bowen replied, saying he respected the Greens' position but Labor had a mandate from voters who gave it a majority to form a government outright.
Bowen said he had told the Greens and independent members of parliament that the government was happy to look at 'sensible suggestions which complement our agenda'.
Greens leader Adam Bandt told AFP this month that for his party, which now holds the balance of power in the Senate, Labor's support for 114 new coal and gas mines already in the pipeline across Australia was the key issue.
'You don't end the climate wars by opening up new coal and gas mines,' he said.
Australia is one of the world's top three exporters of coal and gas, but the country's vulnerability to climate change -- witnessed in recent years through record drought, fires and floods -- has made voters increasingly vocal.
Bowen said Labor's new target for deeper emissions cuts under the Paris Agreement of 43 percent on 2005 levels, compared to 26-28 percent under the previous conservative government, was 'not a ceiling'.
'Our aspiration is that the commitments of our industry, states and territories, and the Australian people will yield even greater emissions reductions in the coming decade,' he said.
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