Andrew Forrest says Coalition’s abandonment of 2030 emissions target would ‘decimate’ economy

<span>Fortescue boss Andrew Forrest warns that relying on introduction of nuclear power in 15 years while opposing large-scale renewables would cripple investment certainty.</span><span>Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images</span>
Fortescue boss Andrew Forrest warns that relying on introduction of nuclear power in 15 years while opposing large-scale renewables would cripple investment certainty.Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The mining magnate Andrew Forrest has warned that the federal Coalition’s proposed abandonment of the 2030 emissions reduction target would hit Australian exports with penalty carbon taxes.

On Tuesday the Fortescue boss warned that relying on the introduction of nuclear power in at least 15 years’ time while opposing large-scale renewables and abandoning interim targets would cripple investment certainty.

Scrutiny of the Coalition’s climate policy is increasing after CSIRO said electricity from nuclear energy would be at least 50% more expensive than solar and wind and Peter Dutton’s plan to oppose the 43% emissions reduction by 2030 was exposed as an abandonment of the Paris agreement.

Related: Peter Dutton accused of trying to ‘rip up’ Australia’s commitment to Paris climate agreement

On Monday the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said Australia did not need “large-scale industrial windfarms” such as those proposed for an offshore zone south of Sydney, adding that the Coalition would “cap” investment in renewable energy if elected.

Forrest said investors needed “certainty of what government policies are”.

“If we flip-flop between policies, if we go back to the past of uncertainty then it of course makes employing people and investing very difficult to impossible,” he told Radio National. “So that would be Australia kicking an own goal.”

In February Forrest labelled the Coalition’s push for nuclear energy “bulldust” and a “new lie” that would delay the clean energy transition and harm regional Australia.

On Tuesday Forrest said the Coalition’s insistence that it could achieve net zero by a switch to nuclear by 2049 was “dreaming”.

He said major trading partners were likely to punish exporters in countries that are not proving they are moving to cleaner forms of energy in the interim.

“And we would have been left behind by the rest of world by then. We’d have been hit with carbon taxes from Europe, from America – everywhere where they’re saying, ‘Well, we’re investing to go green. You didn’t. So we’re going to tax your products on the way into Europe, on the way into North America.’

“That decimates the economic model which Australia has lived on since federation, which is an export country.”

Littleproud responded that capping the rollout of large-scale renewables would cause “uncertainty for [Forrest’s] wallet”, accusing him of having a “vested interest” because of his investment in renewables.

Related: Coalition to impose ‘cap’ on renewable energy investment, Nationals leader says

Littleproud said the Coalition would be upfront about its plans for the energy mix, despite the fact that it refuses to say until after the election whether it will have an interim target and how large it will be, after trying to repeal Labor’s commitment to 43% by 2030.

Similarly, the Coalition would be upfront about the costs of nuclear power, “how it’s paid for” and the location of potential sites, he said: “What you see is what you get with Peter Dutton.”

The Albanese government on Saturday gave the green light to a 1,022 sq km area, 20km off the Illawarra coast, in the first stage of a process for it to become the country’s fourth dedicated windfarm zone.

Littleproud declared the Coalition was opposed to it and promised to “send the investment signals that there is a cap on where [the Coalition] will go with renewables and where we will put them”.

The energy and climate change minister, Chris Bowen, seized on the remarks which he said showed “while the world races to cleaner cheaper reliable renewables, the Nationals wants to stop new investment”.

“Peter Dutton would be worse on climate than Abbott or Morrison and David Littleproud would be worse than Barnaby Joyce,” he posted on X.

The Nationals senator Matt Canavan agreed with Littleproud, declaring that “clearly we need to slow [large-scale renewables] down”.

“We need to switch gears to investing in power systems that can stay on all the time,” he told Sky News.

Canavan appeared from Yeppoon by a digital sign declaring that “net zero puts prices up”, in apparent contradiction of Coalition policy which still purports to be in favour of net zero by 2050.

The senator revealed that the “party room hasn’t been briefed on these matters” but added it “had a lot of discussion about the rollout of large-scale renewables”.

“We’ve never been against solar or wind investments – the issue is how much is a good thing? And we need to find a balance in our energy system and right now we do have too much energy in the middle of the day.”

Canavan claimed, without evidence, that more renewable energy to get to a target of 82% “will destroy our grid and manufacturing”.