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G20 Brisbane: Australia resists efforts towards a strong statement on decisive international action against climate change

By William Schaper, Global Head of Research

Brisbane, Australia – The G20 Leader’s Summit concluded this past Sunday with the release of a communiqué that addressed issues discussed at this year’s meeting. Part of the document included a promising, albeit brief, statement about climate change.

A recent article by The Guardian revealed the wording of a draft statement by representatives at the G20 Leader’s Summit, which promised “strong and effective action to address climate change, consistent with the United Nations framework convention on climate change and it’s agreed outcomes.” The statement also called for the adoption of “protocol” and “legal instruments” as well as the disclosure of “nationally determined contributions” (or, in other words, nationally determined climate targets) by early 2015, in advance of COP 21 set to take place in Paris next year.

While this statement seems to indicate the presence at this year’s summit of a shared international will to confront climate change, this would be far from the truth. The fact is that this final draft was the result of a hard-fought battle between US and EU representatives and negotiators from other countries that would have preferred a less effective statement. Incidentally, the party that resisted the most against this final wording was the host country of this year’s summit, Australia.

The same Guardian article also reveals that though Australia had consented to include a paragraph about climate change in the final G20 communiqué, Australian negotiators continually resisted changes to an initially proposed, and less-effective, draft.

This resistance is perhaps a manifestation of Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s general view on climate change. The Australian prime minister has stated before that the effects of future changes were unknown and could even be “benign”. Abbot has also, on several occasions, questioned the widely accepted consensus of the impact of the role of human activity on climate change. In his personal biography, Battlelines, he states, “Whether humans have had a significant impact on the climate as a whole is much less clear. Climate change is a relatively new political issue, but it’s been happening since the earth’s beginning.”

Abbot has also been an outspoken supporter of the coal industry, a source of energy that makes up nearly three-quarters of Australia’s energy supply.

To read the full G20 communiqué click, here.

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