Australia was accused of climate change denial by the threatened Pacific Island state of Tuvalu on Thursday, in the first such accusation leveled at a country at these talks for many years.
In the high level segment of the UN-sponsored climate change negotiations in Warsaw, the Tuvalu Prime Minister, Enele Sosene Sopoaga, did not mention Australia directly by name, but referred to the obstructive actions of its “close Pacific neighbour”. There was no doubt who he was referring to.
“Some of our close Pacific neighbours have been so unhelpful,” Sopoaga sais. “We seem to be witnessing a turn-back to the days of climate change denial.”
Small island states such as Tuvalu and many other countries have been shocked by the obstructive tactics of Australia at these talks, particularly over negotiations to set up a new institution to deal with Loss and damage, a new mechanism for compensation to countries that suffer from climate change.
Sopoaga, said the suggestion that the people of Tuvalu can move elsewhere “are offensive to the people of Tuvalu”. He said that if loss and damage mechanisms were not agreed, his country would seek damages and “full reperations” through the courts.
Numerous other countries expressed their shock that major industrial nations had wound back their targets, rather than increasing them. This was widely seen as a direct reference to the stance adopted by Japan, Canada and Australia.
Tony de Brum, the climate change minister for the Marshall Islands, had earlier accused Australia of being a “rogue nation”. On Thursday he said “tired excuses” were no longer acceptable. “The clock is ticking, the temperature is rising, the ocean is swelling, and the body count is growing.”
Australia, in its only public comment at these talks, delivered a very brief speech in the high level segment, just 2m 4s long (probably the shortest of any nation), in which it insisted it accepted the science of climate change, but would only take action that was “fiscally and economically” responsible.
In its speech delivered by climate change ambassador Justin Lee, Australia repeated its stance that Direct Action was a “fundamentally better” mechanism than a carbon tax. It said it would deliver a 5% reduction, but would only entertain higher targets depending on the actions of major economies and key trading partners.
Here is the speech in full:
Climate change is real and we must collectively take strong and effective global action to deal with it.
That is why the task of negotiating a new global climate change agreement by 2015 is so important. An agreement that would establish for the first time from 2020 a common platform for all countries to take serious coordinated global climate action that is economically and fiscally responsible. An agreement in which all major economies, and Australia’s key trading partners and competitors, play a real part in controlling their emissions through comparable real global action.
In the meantime, Australia will unilaterally reduce its emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Australia will review its climate change policy in 2015, considering further action and targets on the basis of comparable real global action, in particular by major economies and trading partners, and progress on the new agreement.
To achieve this, at home the Australian Government will implement a Direct Action Plan on climate change, to drive down Australia’s emissions. Australian businesses, farmers and households will be provided with incentives to invest in technologies that will efficiently and effectively source low-cost abatement. This is a fundamentally better way to reduce emissions than through a carbon tax.
Australia looks forward to working with the Polish Presidency here in Warsaw and over the coming year, and also with the Presidencies of Peru and France as we take steps towards adopting a new agreement at Paris in 2015.