World

Aussie PM breaks silence on Sydney smog, notes climate change factor

SYDNEY: Facing angry street protests and mounting political pressure, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday broke a long silence to acknowledge "troubling" bushfire smoke that has engulfed his native Sydney for more than a month.

On Wednesday, up to 20,000 people - many in face masks - marched in Sydney, demanding he directly address the crisis that has caused health problems to spike and forced residents indoors. Hours later, Mr Morrison insisted he understood the concerns of greater Sydney's five million residents.

"I know how unusual it is to see that haze across my city. And I know how distressing that has been, particularly for young people, who wouldn't have seen that before," he said.

He also made a rare admission that climate change is one of the "factors" causing unprecedented bushfires that have destroyed millions of hectares of land, more than 700 homes and caused toxic smoke to bathe Australia's largest city.

"The dryness of the bush is the biggest factor," Mr Morrison said. "And we all know climate change, along with many other factors, contributes to what is occurring today."

A recent Essential Research poll showed his disapproval rating had risen from 36 per cent in September - when the bushfire crisis began in earnest - to 43 per cent today.

Climate is a vexed issue for Mr Morrison's Liberal party.Moves to greatly reduce Australia's carbon emissions or curb coal exports could damage his standing in mining communities, split his party and risk tipping the economy into crisis. - AFP

WORLD