The context is this.
At its December meeting of ministers in Paris the UNFCCC will strike a post-Kyoto international deal on climate mitigation post 2020. Countries were asked to put forward their draft plans by the end of March. Abbott deliberately ignored the deadline, putting forward a discussion paper (see Emissions reduction the Abbott way) with a submissions deadline of 24 April. Australia will submit its proposals in May. In this way Abbott has the chance to look at everyone else’s homework before he writes his own.
Meanwhile he has been making very clear that ours is a fossil fuel future and downgrading the urgency for action on climate change. Recent actions have included finding $4 million to set climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg up at a new centre the University of WA (see Climate clippings 135, Item 3) at a time when funds for genuine research have been cut.
Now Australia has snubbed a meeting of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington DC, starting last Sunday, by not sending a minister or even its chief climate negotiator. We sent Dr Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary of the Department of the Environment.
Other countries are not impressed with Australia’s low level of ambition in the Direct Action plan. We have attracted more queries than any other countries. Documents from the UN show a distinct lack of confidence in Australia’s ability to meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets, let alone any future target. Indeed 36 questions on this subject and the Abbott government’s broader climate policies have come from countries including Brazil, the US, China, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and from the European Union.
The Chinese say we are not doing our fair share. Brazil, the US, the EU and the others are all unhappy.
The Age reminded us of Abbott’s statement in 2009 that he thought the science of human-caused climate change was “absolute crap”, his many denialist comments in his autobiography Battlelines and proceeded to highlight his sorry record in government.
By its failure to enact coherent policies in this vital area, [the Abbott government] has made itself an international pariah…
At home its failure to act has cost jobs and money. There appears to be no practical reason for these failures, beyond clinging to questionable ideology. Regardless of the personal beliefs held by the Prime Minister and his advisers, as a leading exporter – and consumer – of fossil fuels, Australia needs to take an active role in the global conversation about climate change. It needs to look beyond narrow dogma and act in concert with the international community.
As often Christine Milne has found some pithy words:
The Greens leader, Christine Milne, said it was no surprise the rest of the world was “appalled” by the Australian government’s stance on climate change action.
“Australia may stand alone and humiliated, but even worse is that Tony Abbott’s global warming policy protects the profits of the big polluters now at the expense of a safe climate for our children and grandchildren,” she said.
“It is intergenerational theft on an obscene scale.”
To be fair US special climate envoy Todd Stern interviewed by the ABC said Australia continues to play a “fair and constructive” role on the international scene. What the transcript doesn’t convey is how long he ummed and ahhed before he came out with those words. It was extraordinary.
Industry minister Ian Macfarlane, in Washington on other business, came out with the usual blah.
Meanwhile the Climate Change Commission, unbowed by its paymaster, has recommended cuts to emissions of 30 per cent by 2025.
The CCA warned if the Government sat on the sidelines based on Australia’s global share of emissions being small, it would be “more self-serving than credible”.
“To maintain that posture in the light of increasing international actions to reduce emissions – by developed and developing, big and small countries – makes it even less credible,” CCA Chair Bernie Fraser said.
“The fact is that Australia stands to be massively affected by global warming whatever its share of global emissions.”