Australia and US aiming for ‘same place’ on climate, Morrison insists after Biden meeting

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Scott Morrison insists Australia and the US are on the same page on climate policy after his first one-on-one meeting with Joe Biden, as the US president presses “every nation” to cut emissions faster.

The Australian prime minister and Biden also spoke about repairing ties with Europe, after their new submarine deal – also involving the UK – infuriated France and put a cloud over EU free trade agreement negotiations.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Morrison said he had informed Biden that the Australian government would “continue to work on our plan as to how we can continue to reduce emissions to zero well into the future”.

Related: US has ‘no closer ally than Australia’, Biden says after Aukus pact

Morrison, who has faced growing international pressure to commit to stronger action against the climate crisis, insisted that the US and Australia were “both seeking to get to the same place” and reiterated that his government would outline its plan before the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.

“We are going to see the most profound transition of the global energy economy that we’ve seen in a very long time,” Morrison told reporters early on Wednesday Australian time.

Biden used a speech to the UN general assembly earlier on Tuesday to urge “every nation” to “bring their highest-possible ambitions to the table when we meet in Glasgow” for the climate summit in November and to “keep raising our collective ambition over time”.

The Australian government is expected to announce its long-term climate strategy next month, but the Nationals will be crucial to any agreement.

Intervening in that debate on Wednesday, the former federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack told Guardian Australia the party had to consider signing up to a commitment to net zero emissions because a flat “no” could threaten Australia’s trade relationships and export income.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, told the general assembly China would stop paying for new coal-fired power projects abroad – a step that analysts said could significantly limit the expansion of the fossil fuel in the developing world – but made no new commitment on domestic emissions reductions.

Morrison and Biden’s meeting in New York on Tuesday was the first time they have had a bilateral meeting, given they had a three-way meeting with Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the G7 summit in June.

It was clear from the White House’s readout that the leaders were seeking to find ways to repair relationships with Europe, after France complained it was blindsided by last week’s announcement the US and the UK would help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

The defence partnership – known as Aukus – led to the scrapping of Australia’s $90bn deal with France’s Naval Group for conventional submarines, prompting France to recall its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington and to raise questions over Australia’s trade negotiations with the European Union.

Related: ‘We thought we were mates’: French ambassador laments subterfuge en route to Sydney airport

The White House said Biden and Morrison had “affirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, based on shared values and mutual interests”.

The statement said the pair had “agreed on the importance of working with allies and partners around the world, including through historic partnerships and organizations and new configurations, to defend against threats to the international rules based order”.

“They discussed the critical role European allies and partners, including Nato and the EU, play in the Indo-Pacific and ways to deepen that cooperation and joint work,” the statement said.

Australia working though ‘complex issues’ of Europe trade deal

Morrison attempted to protect the US and the UK from diplomatic fallout over the submarine announcement, saying he wanted to be “very clear” that “this is a matter that was initiated by Australia” acting “in our national interests”.

Morrison said it was “no easy thing to land a trade deal with Europe” and the trade minister, Dan Tehan, would continue to work through the “many complex issues”.

In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Tehan will declare that Australia’s FTA negotiations with the EU are “business as usual”.

But Morrison said patience would be needed, and the EU would consult with its members.

“I was very pleased with the discussions we had on that topic today, not just with obviously the European Commission and Council, but also the individual member states – whether it was Estonia, or going through Austria and Sweden and others,” Morrison said.

The prime minister said Australia welcomed Europe’s increased focus on the Indo-Pacific region. He said Aukus was “an opportunity to engage Europe more broadly”.

“This is not about excluding, this is the reverse. This is an opportunity to engage more because we will be able to do more in the region and do more together with other European nations.”

Related: Biden vows to double aid to developing countries vulnerable to climate crisis

The White House statement added that Biden and Morrison had discussed their upcoming Quad leaders’ summit – which also includes Japan and India – “including efforts to expand access to vaccines in the Indo-Pacific and to cooperate to address the climate crisis”.

In remarks at the beginning of the meeting, Biden said the US and Australia were “working in lockstep” on challenges such as “ending Covid, addressing the climate crisis, defending democracy, shaping the rules of the road for the 21st century”.

“I meant what I said: We are at an inflection point; things are changing,” Biden said. “We either grasp the change and deal with it, or we’re going to be left behind – all of us.”

The Biden administration has promised to “weave” the climate crisis into the fabric of all of its diplomatic engagements, and a top US climate official told the Guardian last month that Australia’s 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels was “not sufficient”.

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