Euro ambassadors ‘shocked’ by Australia’s anti-climate stance

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Australia is becoming a laughing stock on the world stage with its anti-climate stance. Even ambassadors are breaking protocol to voice their concerns.

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Australia’s growing isolation on international climate policy has been highlighted after several European ambassadors broke with diplomat protocol and directly criticised Australia’s domestic policies.

The ambassadors, speaking at a function at ANU, said they were “surprised” and “shocked” that Australia was seeking to remove a carbon price and a market mechanism, and was not including environment issues on the G20 conference it is hosting later this year.

sven-olof“I’m amazed that a Liberal government does not choose a market mechanism to regulate emissions,” the Swedish ambassador Sven-Olof Petersson (pictured) said. “I think that is really shocking.”

Australia is not just seeking to remove the market price on C02 emissions, but conservative state governments are also dismantling market-based mechanisms to encourage energy efficiency, and have hired a climate skeptic to assess fossil fuel industry demands that the renewable energy target, another market mechanism that encourages wind and solar investment, is also removed.

As RenewEconomy reported from Warsaw last year, Australia’s about face on climate policies astonished international policy makers, and cast a pall over climate change negotiations.

The international community is also frustrated that Australia has refused to include climate change and other environmental concerns on the G20 agenda, apparently because Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to keep the final communiqué “simple” and worries that climate change is too complicated.

“We were all a little bit surprised …that environment was not considered a priority issue,” Pier Francesco Zazo, Italy’s ambassador to Australia, told the same ANU forum. “Sooner or later Australia will go back to this … and understand the importance of the environment.”

Indeed, European leaders, and US President Barack Obama, have also put pressure on Australia to include climate change in the most important meeting of world leaders for the year.

The views of the ambassadors are widely held in international policy circles, but the fact that the ambassadors have spoken out on the matter so forcefully in the host country is highly unusual.

However, Australia is now being bombarded by warnings that its anti-environment, anti-climate stance risks economic problems further down the track.

Globally renowned economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs said this week that Australia’s reversal on climate change action will ultimately not stick, because the rest of the world will make clear that it is unacceptable.

Sachs said governments acting in an ”anti-scientific perspective or an extraordinarily short-term perspective” will be surprised by the response from other countries.

”This government was surprised this week with the reception to the budget,” Sachs told Fairfax Media. ”And I think it is going to be surprised by the global reception of its climate policies as well unless it begins to understand the real situation in the world and what’s really expected of a country like Australia.”

Earlier this week, Australian economist Ross Garnaut warned that Australia faced “consequences” in the international arena because of its position.

“The world is moving awkwardly towards much less carbon-intensive economic activity just as Australia is talking about moving the other way.

“This has the potential to generate tensions between Australia and important international partners and also to separate us from new opportunities in a low-carbon world.”

Australia’s federal environment minister Greg Hunt, when asked about the ambassadors’ comments, said he was not “aware” of their concerns, and repeated his off-stated comment that Australia was working to bring together the US, China, India and the EU (the so-called G4) to solve the climate problem.

India’s new PM has vowed to ensure that every home in the country (nearly 400 million have no access to electricity) will have solar by 2019, powering at least one light bulb. China this week said it would more than treble its solar capacity and double its wind capacity over the next four years. The US has flagged tighter emissions targets that will see more than 50GW of coal-fired generation closed, while Europe is looking to double its emissions target and raise its renewable energy targets.

The leaders of these countries are unlikely to want to be lectured by a junior minister who is overseeing the dismantling of the very policies that most major economies are looking to strengthen, and who is seeking to replace them with a budgeted $300 million to spend next financial year in a “Direct Action” plan dismissed as a joke by most financiers, and a 15,000-strong litter-collecting “green army.”

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18 Comments
  1. Beat Odermatt 5 years ago

    Australia has to go towards a low or a
    no carbon economy. Sophisticated trading partners will impose trade
    restrictions against any country which does not lower its carbon
    footprint. Australia has an advantage and a disadvantage. The
    advantage is that we have more solar and wind power resources than
    most nations on earth. The disadvantage is the need to transport
    goods over a very large distance making it harder for mining and
    agriculture to lower the use of fossil fuel. This makes it however
    even more important to do whatever we can to use renewable energy
    wherever we can.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      Electrifying land transport was envisioned as part of the Beyond Zero Emissions Stationary Energy Plan.

      http://bze.org.au/zero-carbon-australia/stationary-energy-plan

    • Rob 5 years ago

      “trade restrictions against any country which does not lower its carbon
      footprint”

      Can’t come soon enough, but it should be in the category of crimes against humanity. Probably will be before too long.

  2. Slartibartfast 5 years ago

    Abbott will be lucky to last six more months as leader. He is already a laughing-stock among Australians and now the rest of the world will see his lack of leadership at the G20 Summit in November this year.

    • Giles 5 years ago

      Most of the world saw that in Colombo last year, when on an international stage Abbott could think of nothing else to say apart from repeating the 3-word domestic sloganeering. Jaws dropped.

      There was an expression coined during the last Bush administration – Post Turtle. Imagine a turtle placed on a fence post. The turtle didn’t get there by itself, it doesn’t know what to do now that it’s there, it’s in a position beyond its ability to function properly, and you wonder who the hell put it there in the first place.

      • Motorshack 5 years ago

        It was also observed here (in the U.S.) that Bush was making Nixon look pretty good. And now Bush can breathe a sigh of relief as Abbott starts to make him look good.

        If this trend keeps up we will be only too glad to vote for a turtle. At least it will not likely do much harm. I can’t really think of the last time a turtle started a pointless multi-trillion dollar war.

      • Terry J Wall 5 years ago

        love it

      • Warwick Johnston 5 years ago

        love it

    • Nicko 5 years ago

      I wish I could share your faith in the Australian electorate, Slarti.

      Too many can be sold turtles on a post, so to speak. The likes of us might laugh or cry at the sheer gall and idiocy of the
      Daily Terrorgraph’s linking of disability pensioners with number of war
      wounded, but others aren’t.

      There is a pro-Abbott backlash, of course, and it remains to be seen how people respond. Perhaps he has gone too far and so won’t be forgotten (Juliar etc), but perhaps not.

      Lastly, international criticism isn’t necessarily poison for them if it triggers the small minded parochialism never far from the surface in too many Australians.

  3. barrie harrop 5 years ago

    Turnbull must be dusting off his baton right now.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      Hockey. Turnbull’s been saddled with the NBN destruction.

  4. schmoepooh 5 years ago

    Wait till they see what’s going on across the pond!

    • Terry J Wall 5 years ago

      What is happening across the pond?

  5. Miles Harding 5 years ago

    DANGER: Australia – Currently operated by morons

    We really have to blame the dumb electorate for voting these clowns in and giving them most of the keys to the senate. The choice wasn’t made easy by labor being so inept.

  6. Alen 5 years ago

    Ah but finally, Abbott seems to have stopped listening to the Australian community and now hopefully he’ll be forced to listen to the international community. CC is global problem and it won’t do any longer for other nations to let others undo their hard and often financially intense mitigation efforts. Germany for instance is one nation investing significant amounts in cleaner technologies to tackle CC, and how do you think they (and others) will feel when they realise that their combined effort will be for naught because of a group of deniers permitting and encouraging greater mining of FF, destroying vital carbon sinks and simply doing their best to stop any climate action full stop. If Abbott doesn’t change his destructive way, I just hope the rest of the LNP isn’t as dense and soon decides that keeping Abbott on his path is not in the best interest of the LNP party, or the population for that matter.

  7. Ian Cleland 5 years ago

    I am embarrassed by the LNP government .

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