Google+

Thursday, 13 November 2014

G20 summit: Australian PM Tony Abbott tries to block climate talks - and risks his country becoming an international laughing stock.......

As host of the G20 summit of world leaders in Brisbane this weekend, Australia had been looking forward to its moment in the sun. However, Tony Abbott’s government risks becoming an international laughing stock, thanks to its attempts to block discussion of climate change.
This week’s landmark agreement between the US and China to reduce carbon emissions has increased pressure on Australia – the only developed country to have gone backwards in fighting climate change – to put the issue on the summit’s agenda.
However, Mr Abbott – who has scrapped a carbon tax and is trying to reduce renewable energy targets – insisted that the G20 was the wrong forum. “This is the world’s premier economic conference, and I… expect the focus will be on economic reform, economic growth, how we drive growth and jobs,” he said.
The agreement by the world’s two biggest polluters, on Wednesday at the Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) summit in Beijing, reportedly took Australia by surprise. Veteran political commentator Michelle Grattan said the government had been “ambushed almost on the eve” of the long-anticipated Brisbane conference.
Under the deal, the US has pledged to slash its emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent of their 2005 levels by 2025, while China has said its emissions will peak by 2030, at the latest, and then decrease.
Next to those goals, Australia’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent of their 2000 levels by 2020 looks inconsequential. Few believe the government will meet even that modest target.
One of the world’s biggest per capita polluters, thanks to its reliance on fossil fuels, Australia is also the world’s largest coal exporter. Mr Abbott – who once dismissed climate change science as “absolute crap” – horrified scientists and environmentalists last month when he described coal as “good for humanity” while opening a new mine in Queensland.
The government has reportedly been fending off last-minute attempts by the US, France and other European nations to have climate change discussed by G20 leaders.
The meeting is seen by many as an important opportunity to build momentum before next year’s Paris conference on climate change, where it is hoped a new global pact will be hammered out.
Australia’s opposition leader, Bill Shorten, warned that if Mr Abbott persisted in his refusal to allow climate change to be discussed in Brisbane, “he will embarrass Australia in front of the rest of the world”. Mr Shorten accused the Prime Minister of holding “flat Earth” views.
Other critics dismissed Mr Abbott’s claim that the G20 was not an appropriate forum. Ms Grattan, a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra, noted that the joint communique issued by the US President, Barack Obama, and the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, referred to climate change “already harming economies around the world”.
With the European Union agreeing last month to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40 per cent of their 1990 levels by 2030, Australia is looking increasingly out of step with the developed world.