Australia dodges important questions on climate change in UN meeting

Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/ Getty.

Australia has been criticised for dodging important policy questions during the latest round of climate change talks in Bonn, Germany.

According to the ABC, Australia was grilled by the US and Brazil as to how its flagship Direct Action policy – which involves paying emitters not to pollute – would help Australia reach its 2020 targets.

“Countries are very interested in knowing whether the Emissions Reduction Fund will result in mitigation comparable total in size to the [Emissions Trading Scheme] in which it replaced,” the US delegation asked.

“Can you share with us some additional details [on] how Australia ensures the mitigation results of this policy are sufficiently large to achieve your objectives?”

“We are fully convinced as a government that we will meet our 2020 targets,” said Australia’s ambassador for the environment Peter Woolcott.

“We now have the legislation in place to do so.”

Erwin Jackson, deputy CEO of The Climate Institute said: “The international community came to Bonn looking for Australia to show how it was joining other nations in modernising the global economy and reducing pollution.”

“Disappointing responses to questions from other countries on the domestic policy framework fudged the fact that the government has significantly wound back renewable energy investment, and inflated the impact of its actions to 2020 without providing any estimate of the pollution reductions it will deliver.”

China and Africa received the same line of response when they put Australia under the spotlight by questioning whether “it is fair for us to do less than other developed countries”.

“We’re reviewing that target currently,” Woolcott said.

“I’d just make the point that this is a fair and equitable target. It’s comparable to other major developed countries in OECD.”

Jackson said Australia’s lack of transparency makes climate negotiations more difficult.

“By not doing what it is saying others should do, the government is undermining its case for even greater accountability on national actions as part of the Paris outcome at the end of the year,” he said.

According to the Africa Progress Panel’s 2015 Report, Australia joined Canada, Japan and Russia as appearing “to have withdrawn from the community of nations seeking to tackle dangerous climate change”.

“With one of the world’s highest levels of per capita emissions, Australia has gone from leadership to free-rider status in climate diplomacy,” the report read.

While the report states that nations should be aiming towards deep carbon cuts by 2030 and zero emission by 2050, Australia was found to be directing $US3.5 billion to developing new coal and other fossil fuel reserves.

“Part of a positive outcome in Paris will be an agreement that all nations – developed and developing – are transparent and clear on their actions. Australia risks failing the first hurdle,” Jackson said.

The Bonn talks serve as a lead-up to the Paris climate summit in December which will deliver the first universal agreement requiring all nations to act on targets to keep the world below 2ºC global warming – a goal which more than 190 countries, including Australia, have agreed to.

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