Australia feels the heat in Lima tent city | RenewEconomy

Australia feels the heat in Lima tent city

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Australia feeling heat in Lima, winning first fossil of day award, and having its office sited next to UNEP, after slashing its funding 80%.

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LIMA: In a tent city erected in a military compound on the outskirts of Lima that the locals dub the “little Pentagon”, Australia is already feeling the heat of the 20th international climate talks.

Quite literally.

The Peruvian capital has a relatively benign climate – little rain, and regular temperatures of around 22C at this time of year. But the air-conditioning – particularly in the massive tents that house the plenary sessions in the Cuartel General del Ejército del Perú – is just not up to scratch. Some would say it’s like a greenhouse. But if it was designed to short speeches, it has had the opposite outcome. That must be the greenhouse gas effect.

lima photo

That’s not the least of the problems for the Australian delegation, though, which made headlines with its newly obstructive attitude in Warsaw, soon after the election of Tony Abbott, and found itself isolated on the issue of climate change at the G20 meeting it hosted in Brisbane last month.

australia fossil
Australia gets its Fossil of the Day at opening day of Lima climate talks.

In Warsaw, Australia made nearly a clean sweep of the “fossil of the day” awards for its about face negotiating position. In Lima, it has started with the same notoriety, winning the inaugural fossil of the day award – along with Austria, Belgium and Ireland, for failing to contribute funds to the Green Climate Fund, the international financing mechanism that Tony Abbott has churlishly labelled the Bob Brown bank.

And in Lima, unlike some delegations, Australia has a modest office, one small room, a small fridge and an Australian flag out the front. And someone in the UN has a sense of humour because its most immediate neighbour is the United Nations Environment Program, which has warned that most of the world’s fossil fuels should remain in the ground, on one side; and to which Australia has just slashed is funding by 80 per cent. That should make for a good conversation piece.

Its other neighbours are the International Emissions Trading Association, which recommends an international carbon price on the other (although it has a number of fossil fuel members in its books).  And its nearest country office – across the corridor – is Germany, whose leader rebuked Australia following the G20 meeting last month and which is at the forefront of pushing the EU to ambitious emission reduction targets.

The fact that Australia has such modest lodgings within the delegation compound (even Indonesia is holding an expo with talks and presentations) is the result of Australia coming to Lima with its smallest delegation in two decades. Just 12 people.

Given that the Coalition used to rib the Labor Party over the size of its delegations – particularly to Copenhagen where it had more than 100 – then the reduction in air miles is possibly the most tangible reduction in emissions that the Coalition government has achieved to date. Direct Action at work.

In the meantime, Australia has to juggle its stonewalling on emission reduction targets and climate finance with its responsibilities as members of various voting blocks within the UN talks.

Australia is the lead spokes-country for the Umbrella Group, which unites non-EU developed countries with as diverse a view on climate action as Norway, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Today, Australia’s newest environment ambassador, the respected diplomat Peter Woolcott who heads Australia’s delegation, gave the opening remarks on behalf of the Umbrella Group.

Woolcott underlined the importance of being committed to strong and effective action on climate change, and also the importance of ensuring that funds flow through climate finance. None of this was controversial in itself – apart from the fact that it came from the representative of a country that has paid lip service to such ideas – and in the case of climate finance  has been openly hostile – in the last 14 months.

As one member of a delegation within the Umbrella Group told RenewEconomy during the long bus trip through Lima’s traffic-choked streets: “They are very nice people, I just don’t like their policies.”



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  1. Keith 6 years ago

    Why slash funds to the UN Environment Program? It is such a small amount of money, but a really big statement to the international community.

    The way it was phrased by Greg Hunt stayed with the small view of the world and making sure the rest of the world sees us as selfish internally focused people, with no idea about the bigger picture.

    It is shameful and gets worse daily.

    • Vic 6 years ago

      ” Why slash funds to the UN Environment Program? ”

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Abbott is trying to make Julie Bishop look bad on the world stage so as to undermine her chances of replacing him as PM. He did the same thing to Malcolm Turnbull by handing him the popularity-destroying tasks of cuts to the ABC and rolling out the sub-standard NBN2.

      This is the level of respect he pays to his own front benchers and yet they continue to try and defend him. For a virtually all male party, the complete lack of balls displayed by the LNP is profound.

      • suthnsun 6 years ago

        I fear the Dark Abbott plays for the power only, dissent is crushed, the only way out is catastrophic failure for all. All who have assented to hooking onto him will profoundly regret it and that goes double for the Australian people who should have spotted it.
        Was that sexism Vic, no you are just playing on a metaphor, no?
        I am profoundly disappointed in Turnbull, I never expected much fron the others.

        • Vic 6 years ago

          And to think, the only two possible contenders for Abbott’s replacement are Turnbull, who made his millions by illegally clear-felling Indonesian rainforests, and Bishop, who cut her teeth as a lawyer defending James Hardy Industries from the asbestos victims they left in their wake.

          Poor fella my country.

      • Alen T 6 years ago

        Don’t forget G. Hunt, the fact that he dedicated his master thesis to highlighting how it should be polluters forking the bill and now Abbott is making him essentially say that his work was all a big waste, and support and a scheme (and I’m sure he very well knows) which is very flawed and wrong minded, and ultimately Greg Hunt will be remembered as the Environment minister who approved this joke of a scheme and critically endangered -or even ultimately approved the death sentence- of our Great Barrier Reef. Quite a legacy…

        • howardpatr 6 years ago

          No, no – “The Minnow” and his like in the Coalition still have their secret weapon – SOIL CARBON FARMING. What a joke – but they can prattle on about it knowing that very few voters have the slightest idea what it is and more importantly its limitations.

  2. michael 6 years ago

    12 seems a much more reasonable contingent than 100 for a summit which happens so regularly. If those 12 can’t be briefed sufficiently before attending, then they are discussing issues at the wrong level.
    Indonesia holding an ‘expo’… tell us more of the indonesan environmental record? Didn’t they pass Brazil this year in the forest clearing rate…. but do preach to me on reducing CO2 in the atmosphere please Indonesia…

      • michael 6 years ago

        by those figures in the article;

        20tn/person, by 25M, gives 500M tonnes for Australia
        8tn/person, by 1.2B, gives 9.6B tonnes for China

        So, who is the major polluter? must be nice to go to per capita when it suits and gross amounts when it suits. Pretty sure the atmosphere doesn’t discriminate about how many people you can ‘assign’ the emissions to

        so in negotiations would it be legitimate for all countries to commit to the same trajectory of gross emission reductions on percentage basis from today’s value?

        Or, what I would see as the only equitable solution, a global base carbon trading system. though the politics of setting that up and administering are phenomenal and probably a 20 year exercise if possible at all, by which time the horse has probably already bolted.

  3. Bob Bingham 6 years ago

    The big supplie of coal and oil should be excluded from the talks as they are only interestedd in protecting their business interests.

  4. Bob Bingham 6 years ago

    As one of the biggest polluters on the planet, Australia having only 12 people is a big boost for the rest of us. They wont be able to influence anyone to keep burning coal, which is the only reason they are there.

  5. Robert Vincin 5 years ago

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    about impossible.
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    by 2020 reverses 200,000,000 hectares of desert to grow soil soil-carbon food fodder and as soil grows, forestry, flora, fauna! The selected vegetation sequesters 8,000,000,000Tonnes CO2e. Well planned the trained farmers with their own cooperatives engage 8 people soil-to-table and compounding annual T. O. $360,000,000,000+

    Climate change solution
    Robert Vincin

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