Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s role in wrecking the international climate talks

Parkinson-Report-Australia turns into ‘anti-climate’ force at Warsaw REneweconomy, By  on 19 November 2013It has taken just 7 days, but already the reputation of Australia as a constructive force in international climate policy has been completely trashed – both in terms of its domestic actions and in the wrecking ball tactics it has sent to Warsaw.

Australia is now seen as an “anti-climate” nation that is actively working against any consensus at these talks, as its domestic policies are translated onto the international stage.

Australia has – many times over the 20-plus years of UN-led climate talks – been seen as an outlier, courtesy of its huge reliance on coal power and exports. But its actions in Warsaw have come as a shock to negotiators who are dealing with familiar faces who had been constructive, if not progressive, at previous conferences.

As mentioned in our report yesterday, the most common refrain being heard by Australian representatives is: What is going on down there? Even a Bush-era US negotiator found Australia’s negotiating position to be extreme. Its opposition to a climate finance position paper prepared by other “climate fiscal conservatives” such as US, New Zealand, Japan, and Canada, has dumbfounded participants.

Actually, what is going on is that Australia is simply taking its domestic sloganeering to the international stage, regardless of diplomatic sensitivities. As Tony Abbott told The Australian today: “We are determined to say what we mean and do what we say, so we will never say one thing at an international conference and another thing at home.” He may be consistent, but he’s failing Diplomacy 101.

His comments came as Australia made the unprecedented step of dissenting on the final communique at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, joining with Canada in refusing support for the UN-sponsored green climate fund, which he dubbed the “green capital fund”. He also dubbed the Clean Energy Finance Corp, which he also wants to dismantle, the “Bob Brown Bank.” (Brown is the former leader of the Australian Greens).

Back in Warsaw, observers are simply aghast. The refusal to back the green climate fund (which has a similar function to the CEFC or even Abbott’s proposed emission reduction fund, apart from the spooky words “green”, “climate”  and “clean energy”) is seen as a threat to these talks, because they are a crucial piece of common ground between developed and developing countries.

“There is no intention for Australia to be in any way constructive or really participate in these talks,” said Wendel Trio, European director of the Climate Action Network.

Indeed, he said, Australia seemed to be working deliberately against any agreement. “I think it is evident at these talks,” he said. “I wonder if Australia would be really interested in joining a legal treaty in 2015.” A big test in coming days will be how Australia and other nations respond to a draft text to move the negotiations towards a Paris agreement.

The draft text includes commitments for the green climate fund, and urges countries to “significantly lift” ambition before 2020 and to move to the top of their target ranges. The Climate Change Authority came to the same conclusion, dismissed by the Abbott government, and it is not yet clear that Australia will indicate its support for that range when it makes its speech to the conference on Thursday.

Trio was speaking after an analysts group, known as GermanWatch, released its annual climate change performance index, which shows that Australia has fallen so far down the rankings that it now sits, along with Canada, as the worst performing industrial country in the world. Both countries get a resounding fail, and are only saved from last spot by Iran, Kazakhstan, and Saudi Arabia.

Australia’s position was already poor because of its high emissions levels and limp-wristed renewables policies, but the decision by the Abbott government to repeal the carbon tax and dismantle all climate and clean energy institutions and initiatives sent it down six places to No 57 out of 61 nations……


November 19, 2013 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international

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