Australian government’s “hard-line ideological agenda” at COP19 damaging reputation


Australia’s international reputation on climate action is rapidly deteriorating, as not only has it been dubbed a “willfulwrecking ball at the UNFCCC COP19 negotiations, but new reports show that it has both slid to the bottom of international rankings of carbon emission reduction efforts, and become the number one emitter per capita among developed nations. The Global Carbon Project shows that Australia is failing to reduce carbon emissions at a rate comparable to the US or the European Union, and that its emissions remain consistent with the levels seen over the past decade. Despite the increasingly woeful performance, Australia has joined Canada to deny developing nations further climate funding. This, coupled with its record fourth Fossil of the Day award win puts Australia in competition with Canada as one of the worst performers at UNFCCC negotiations in history.


RT @MotherJones: Japan isn’t the only country walking away from climate promises

Key Points

  • After bringing a “hard-line ideological agenda” and wrecking ball tactics to COP19, Australia is now being seen as an “anti-climate” nation, actively working against a constructive outcome at the UNFCCC negotiations. Despite being a rich, affluent nation, it is ignoring the fact its historic emissions give it an obligation and commitment to provide funding for developing countries for climate mitigation and adaptation.
  • Australia is now the number one emitter per capita  among developed nations, and his has slid to the bottom of global rankings for climate action. This, combined with its irresponsible language and backward steps at the COP19 negotiations, have earned it a record four Fossil of the Day awards. Australia is the 16th largest emitter of CO2 in the world, ranking 10th, higher than any other major western nation, in terms of per capita emissions, and it is ranked 57 out of 61 for efforts to slow global warming. A drop of six places.


With four Fossil of the Day awards now under its belt, Australia has not only joined Canada as one of the worst UNFCCC negotiation performers in history, but it has been accused of bringing “hard-line ideological agenda” and wrecking ball tactics to COP19 and actively working against a constructive outcome at climate talks.

Since taking power, the Abbott government has devoted itself to abolishing back Australia’s climate change institutions and limiting emissions reduction ambition to five percent, and doing so against virtually all scientific and economic advice. It’s refusal to commit to further climate funding for developing nations, and increasingly bewildering and destructive contributions to COP19 has brought these backward steps on climate to the world stage.

Australia is now being compared unfavourably with serial offender Canada, with delegates from developing countries and Europe, economists and environmental groups reportedly criticising its unrelenting mantra of “no more money, no more ambition”. Australia’s hardline stance is also raising eyebrows as it is now the number one emitter per capita among developed nations, and given it has slid to the bottom of the climate action list.

Germanwatch’s International climate change performance index now ranks Australia 57 out of 61 for its efforts to slow global warming – a fall of six places. It is now the 16th largest emitter of CO2 in the world, ranking 10th, and is higher than any other major western nation in terms of per capita emissions, while the Global Carbon Project has found its emissions have remained stable. US emissions, in contrast, were down 3.7 percent in 2012 on 2011 levels, while the 28 EU nations have a similar trajectory with emissions falling 1.3 percent on 2011.

This lack of real action, coupled with a hardening of stance and backwards steps both domestically and internationally are damaging Australia’s reputation, and are also doing so despite the Australian people increasingly showing these actions to be contrary to their desire for climate action. On Sunday an estimated 60,000 people rallied at 130 events across Australia, decrying the Abbott government’s backward steps and calling for greater emissions reduction ambition.

With the science being so clear, unprecedentedly early and harsh bushfires impacting Australia, annual losses to extreme weather almost quadrupling in the past few decades, and typhoon Haiyan demonstrating the clear, present and increasing danger climate change poses, the Government’s backwards steps on climate action not only threaten future economic and environmental protection domestically, but risk damaging climate progress globally.



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Key quotes

  • “I was there at the COP (in Bali, 1997) where Australia was applauded for joining the Kyoto Protocol, so in that sense it is regrettable that – at a time when we need so many countries to move forward – that we see steps backwards.” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.
  • “Wherever you look, government-induced policy risk is the biggest deterrent to investment. What we have seen in Europe and in Australia has been government-induced policy risk. It kills investment.” Eminent economist and head of the Grantham Research Institute, Lord Nicholas Stern.
  • “Australia has taken an extremely hard line on climate line on climate finance, and adopted a confrontational and ideological tone in their comments. Backtracking […] is casting a pall on negotiations.” WWF energy expert Mark Lutes.
  • “What a joke. Just as the rest of the world is getting more serious about climate change, we’re going the other way.” Economist and journalist Ross Gittins.
  • “Without more funding, poorer countries won’t be able to get on a path to low-carbon development. Nor will they be able to deal with the huge issues of adapting to the temperature increases, extreme weather, ecosystem collapse and sea level rise that will result from climate change.” Lecturer at University of Technology, Sydney and Official Adviser at the Climate Change Negotiations to the Government of Afghanistan, Ian McGregor.
  • “Coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake. Look past next quarter’s bottom line and see the next generation’s bottom line. The coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you cannot afford to ignore. Like any other industry, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your workforce and shareholders … and by now it is abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can only go ahead if they are compatible with the two degree Celsius limit.” UNFCCC executive director Christiana Figueres speaking to the World Coal Association summit

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More tweets

  • RT @ABCenvironment: Current #climate pledges lock us in to 3.7 degrees C of warming (listen) #COP19
  • RT @renew_economy: Abbott’s #climate mantra sends delegates loopy in Warsaw #auspol #COP19
  • MT @HuwpHuw: Fossil-funded climate denial group says ‘coal is the moral choice’, praises Australia at UN talks #COP19
  • RT @CAN_Australia: U.N. climate talks: Australia, Japan, Poland and Canada behaving badly. #climate #COP19
  • RT @CECHR_UoD: #Australia slides down to bottom on #climatechange performance index #COP19
  • RT @Wersula: Shame on us! RT“@renew_economy: Climate denial group congratulates Australia during #COP19 Warsaw talks”