CNN  — 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled a long-awaited climate plan on Tuesday, finally announcing that his country would join the other developed nations by aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

It should be a moment to celebrate. The shift comes after months of pressure from international allies, the Australian people and even members of Morrison’s own center-right Liberal Party. The news was also warmly welcomed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will be hosting the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow that begin Sunday.

But in reality, Morrison will go to COP26, reluctantly, with the weakest climate plan among the G20’s developed nations. The leader has also ignored months of calls to increase the country’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which is at around half that of the US’ pledge, and even further below the European Union’s and United Kingdom’s.

After publishing a defiant op-ed to announce the policy, in which the leader said he “won’t be lectured by others who do not understand Australia,” Morrison told journalists that he didn’t even intend to put net zero into law.

Dozens of countries have already put forward plans to reach net zero – where greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and any remaining emissions are removed from the atmosphere – ahead of Glasgow. More than a dozen have already enshrined them into law, and most that have announced the goal intend to legislate in the future.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Morrison said his government would achieve net zero by 2050 “the Australian way” by balancing the risk of climate change without damaging the economy.

“Our plan, most importantly, backs Australians to achieve what they want to achieve when it comes to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Australians want to do that and our plan enables them to do that. Our plan works with Australians to achieve this goal. Our plan enables them, it doesn’t legislate them, it doesn’t mandate them, it doesn’t force them. It respects them,” Morrison said.

An open-pit coal mine in the Hunter Valley. Australia is the world's second-biggest exporter of coal.

Of the G20’s advanced nations, only Australia, Italy and the US still have net zero in policy documents, rather than in law, a net zero tracker from the UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit shows. In the US’ case, President Joe Biden is at least trying hard to get his sweeping climate plans through Congress. He’s struggling, but he’s likely to get something passed to support net zero. And Italy’s targets will need to eventually meet requirements set by the EU. That essentially makes Australia the weakest link.

The Australian Climate Council, which is independent of the government, dismissed Morrison’s announcement as flimsy.

“The Morrison government’s net zero by 2050 announcement is a joke without strong emissions cuts this decade,” the Climate Council’s head of research Simon Bradshaw told CNN.

Bradshaw said that even with the net-zero commitment, Australia ranked “dead last” of all developed nations on its climate record. In a recent report, the council found that Australia was the worst-perfoming developed nation in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and moving beyond fossil fuels.

The Climate Council has calculated that Australia should reduce its emissions by 75% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035 to do its fair share in containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as scientists say is needed to stave of worsening impacts of the climate crisis.

“As a first step, Australia should match the updated commitments of our key allies – including the US and the UK – and pledge before Glasgow to at least halve national emissions this decade,” Bradshaw said.

‘I’ve seen more detailed fortune cookies’

Australia is the world’s second-biggest coal exporter and its resources minister, Keith Pitt, has the country would continue to mine and sell coal abroad well beyond 2030. Coal is the single biggest contributor the climate crisis and COP26 President Alok Sharma wants an agreement on phasing it out, with developed nations targeting an end date of 2030.

Morrison’s hesitancy in announcing net zero hung largely on the stance of his party’s political allies, the Nationals, many of whom opposed the policy.