The UK government says a free trade deal with Australia will include "vital" commitments to global climate targets, despite reports it had agreed to omit them amid pressure from the Morrison government.
The Morrison government has also confirmed the deal will reference the Paris agreement, but has maintained the trade pact was about trade - not climate targets.
The two governments are under pressure after Sky News UK obtained an email from a senior official which appeared to confirm UK trade secretary Liz Truss had agreed to drop "climate asks" in order to get Australia "over the line" on a new free trade agreement.
The "climate asks" included a specific reference to the climate targets in the Paris Agreement, according to the leaked email.
Australia is a signatory to the Paris agreement, which calls for action to keep global warming to "well below" 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels and preferably to 1.5 degrees.
Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive David Ritter said the leaked emails showed the lengths the Morrison government was prepared to go to thwart meaningful action on climate change.
"These breaking revelations confirm the worst: that Australia is actively engaged in diplomatic bullying to weaken the global climate effort," he said.
The UK government on Thursday labelled any suggestion that the deal with Australia wouldn't include a commitment to the Paris targets was "completely untrue".
"Our ambitious trade deal with Australia will include a substantive article on climate change which reaffirms both parties' commitments to The Paris Agreement, and achieving its goals including limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees," a UK government spokesman said in a statement to The Canberra Times.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison announced in June an "in principle" agreement on a new free trade deal.
The text of the agreement include references to tackling climate change in line with the Paris agreement, but not specifically to the targets.
In contrast, the UK's deal with the European Union does include specific references to meeting the Paris temperature targets.
Trade minister Dan Tehan on Thursday confirmed that the final free trade agreement would include references to the Paris agreement.
He pushed back at suggestions Australia had lobbied for climate targets to be omitted, insisting those matters were not relevant to the free trade talks.
"We like our free trade agreements to actually be about free trade and multilateral environmental agreements is where you negotiate emissions reduction, where you negotiate all those climate targets," he told 4BC radio.
Mr Morrison was later asked directly why Australia would ask the UK government to remove temperature targets from the trade deal. He responded by echoing Mr Tehan's earlier comments.
"It was about trade. It wasn't a climate agreement, it was a trade agreement," he said.
Any evidence that the UK was prepared to lower its climate action ambition in order to secure a trade deal would be politically damaging and embarrassing for Mr Johnson, as he prepares to host the highly anticipated UN climate summit in Glasgow in November.
Similarly, any evidence that Australia was trying to pressure the UK to drop specific references to the Paris targets would fuel an ongoing criticism of the Morrison government that it wasn't serious about tackling climate change.
The federal government is already facing mounting domestic and international pressure - including from the UK - to raise its 2030 emission reduction target and commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 ahead of the Glasgow summit.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: