SYDNEY — Under-fire Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday rejected calls for "reckless" and "job-destroying" cuts to the country's vast coal industry in the face of a deadly climate-fuelled bushfire crisis.
"I am not going to write off the jobs of thousands of Australians by walking away from traditional industries," Morrison told the Seven Network, in one of several morning interviews rejecting calls for further action.
"What we won't do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching targets which are being sought," he told Channel 9, responding to calls for more climate-friendly policies.
Morrison's conservative government has fiercely defended the lucrative coal industry in Australia, which produces a third of global coal exports and provides jobs in key swing electoral districts.
Morrison's media blitz came as he sought to limit the political fallout from a much-criticised Hawaiian holiday - taken as bushfires destroyed an area the size of Belgium and unleashed toxic smoke into Australia's major cities.
Conditions eased markedly on Monday, but authorities said in the last few days almost 200 homes have been damaged by fires in South Australia and New South Wales.
Bushfires are endemic in Australia, but scientists say several weather phenomena have come together to make this spring-summer bushfire season among the worst on record.
Record-low rainfall, record-high temperatures and high winds have made the situation more combustible, and according to scientists, are influenced by climate change.
Morrison has insisted Australia will meet its 2030 emissions targets, although that will largely be done by counting past credits rather than through new reductions.
"I'm going to maintain the course of responsible management, responsibly addressing the changes of climate change and responsibly ensuring that we can grow our economy in what is a very tough climate at the moment," he told the Seven Network.
While Australia's national carbon emissions are low compared with major polluters, its fossil fuel exports - mostly coal - account for an estimated seven percent of the world's carbon emissions.— AFP