Australia will not to meet its Paris emissions reduction targets if the Turnbull government includes coal-fired power in any watered down climate and energy policy, environment groups and the Greens are warning.
Power companies have also restated their concerns about policy uncertainty after Fairfax Media revealed the government was working on a major redesign of the Clean Energy Target proposed by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, arguing further change would cause additional uncertainty and delay new investment.
A revised scheme would allow high-efficiency, low-emission coal-fired power plants to receive partial certificates, or credits, under a clean energy scheme.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce would not say on Wednesday what level the government would set for the emissions baseline in the revised target but confirmed "it will keep base load coal-fired power going".
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was pressed in Parliament to give a yes or no answer on whether the government would introduce a Clean Energy Target, but he would only say the government was still considering whether, or how, to adopt the 50th recommendation of the Finkel review.
"What we need to achieve in our policy is to ensure energy becomes more affordable, that it becomes more reliable and that we meet our emissions reduction obligations," he said.
"The fact is a Clean Energy Target is an evolution of, a refinement, if you like, of a Renewable Energy Target. What the Renewable Energy Target did not do, has not done, is provide support for the storage and the back-up that is required to make renewables reliable."
Labor resources spokesman Jason Clare said Mr Turnbull was being "led around like a prized bull at the Easter Show by the far right of the Liberal Party" - a reference to opposition within the Coalition to Clean Energy Target.
But Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said Australia had a strong track record on meeting international emissions reduction targets.
"We beat our first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes and are on track to meet and beat our second Kyoto 2020 target by 224 million tonnes," he said.
"The Turnbull government is working to further reduce emissions through the Emissions Reduction Fund, the National Energy Productivity Plan, the phase down of hydrofluorocarbons and the Renewable Energy Target."
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O'Shannassy said if the government included coal in a redesigned target "it is not only wilfully ignoring the environmental impact, it will put more pollution in the skies".
"The proposal from Finkel wouldn't meet our already weak commitment under the Paris climate deal and if the Turnbull government further waters it down as they propose, it will make meeting out target even harder," she said.
The acting chief executive of independent advocacy group Environment Victoria, Nicholas Aberle, said there was "no question that if we are to meet our Paris targets, we need to close coal-fired power stations, not keep them open".
Greens climate spokesman Adam Bandt said for Australia to meet its Paris obligations, Australia needed to close one coal-fired power station a year, not keep them open for longer.
Earlier, Mr Turnbull told Parliament the government was committed to meeting its international obligations - a reference to the Paris climate agreement under which Australia committed to a 26-28 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030.
Labor has indicated it is willing to work with the government on the Clean Energy Target to end the policy uncertainty and help spur investment, but was highly critical of the notion.
Australian Energy Council chief Matthew Warren was unequivocal about the importance of a Clean Energy Target, describing it as the centrepiece of energy market reform in Australia.
"Opposing it risks consigning Australian consumers to higher energy prices in the future," he said.
Energy retailers voiced concern over the delay in implementing the final recommendation of the Finkel review.
"The Finkel recommendations are designed to work as a package," a spokesperson from Energy Australia said.
"They're a blueprint for a modern energy system, including a Clean Energy Target, which provides a long-term trajectory for emissions."
An Origin Energy spokeswoman added: "We've also been consistently calling for policy certainty."
The story Claims Australia won't meet Paris climate commitment if it keeps coal in CET first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.