In his first major engagement as Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese attended the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) summit in Japan this week and reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 2030 under his leadership, writes Gavin Dennett.

Joining the leaders of the US, Japan and India at the summit, Albanese used his opening address to assert his position that Australia will take stronger action to combat climate change and formally commit to a more ambitious emissions target, stressing the importance of affirmative measures for the Indo-Pacific region.

With the Albanese government determined to cut emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, it represents the first time Australia has committed to increasing its reduction target since 2015, with the Scott Morrison government continuing the inferior 26 to 28 per cent target set by the Tony Abbott administration in 2015.

“The region is looking to us to work with them and to lead by example,” said Albanese at the summit. “That’s why my government will take ambitious action on climate change and increase our support to partners in the region as they work to address it, including with new finance.

“We will act in recognition that climate change is the main economic and security challenge for the island countries of the Pacific. Under my government, Australia will set a new target to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, putting us on track for net zero by 2050.”

After the meeting with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Albanese said his government’s commitment to increasing the carbon reduction target is welcomed by other Quad nations.

While Australia’s new 2030 emission reduction target is welcomed abroad, it still falls short of the US commitment of 50 to 52 per cent below 2005 levels, and Japan’s commitment to 46 per cent. India has committed to 33 to 35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

It is hoped Labor will continue to strive for greater reduction targets in Australia given the new parliamentary crossbench features Greens and Teal independent MPs who are striving for targets up to 75 per cent.

While there will be persistent pressure on Albanese to increase his government’s emissions reduction target moving forward, the 46 per cent figure represents progress and breaks the shackles of a Coalition government that steadfastly refused to tackle climate change and paid for it dearly at the polling booths during the federal election.

Albanese said it was an honour to attend the Quad summit so soon after being sworn in as Australia’s 31st Prime Minister, and reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the Pacific pact.

“The Quad is needed now more than ever in order to meet the challenges and threats of a less certain world and to shape that world for the better,” he said.

“We have had a change of government in Australia, but Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change. The new Australian Government’s priorities align with the Quad agenda: taking action on climate change and building a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific region through better economic security, better cybersecurity, better energy security, and better environmental and health security.”