Australia Won't Agree To Climate Deals Unless Trade Competitors Deliver Acceptable Results

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Photo: Getty Images

Meeting with business officials at the 2014 UN Climate Change Conference in Peru, Australia’s trade minister Andrew Robb said Australia won’t sign up to any new agreements unless trade competitors deliver comparable outcomes.

Robb and foreign minister Julie Bishop travelled to Lima this week to discuss Australia’s commitment, while reinforcing Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments yesterday that all countries should take practical steps but safeguard economic growth when considering climate change.

The trade minister told business officials, including representatives from BHP Billiton and the Business Council of Australia, that if the government is not convinced its trade competitors were “doing what they should” it would influence whether Australia signed up to new climate agreements.

“Outcomes must be comparable… We are not going to get it in the neck and increase our costs for nothing,” he said.

Speaking on AM Radio this morning Julie Bishop said, “We do what we say. That’s our track record and we expect the same of others.”

“That’s why our negotiating team is here, to determine that the major emitters and indeed our trading competitors and our trading partners will likewise commit to real action on climate change. Australia should not and will not go this alone,” she said.

Bishop reportedly “went bananas” last week when the PM’s Office decided to send the climate-skeptic trade minister along to the negotiations in Peru, hinting at political tension between Abbott and his only female frontbencher.

Yesterday, Bishop announced the government would pledge $200 million over four years to the Green Climate Fund. Bishop has previously said climate change funding should not be disguised as foreign aid funding but the government’s contribution will come from the foreign aid budget.

“What we were talking about then was when Labor would dump millions of dollars into a multilateral fund and have no control over where it went, in which regions it was spent,” she said.

The foreign minister said Australia’s contribution would target the Asia Pacific region, providing “sensible, logical funding” which corresponds with new aid principles.

However, Robb said the government wanted to ensure developing countries understood that there would be no further money from Australia in the climate negotiations.

Bishop agrees, saying “this old divide between developed and developing countries does not reflect economic reality.”

“To say that China is a developing country when it, in fact, has the largest economy in the world and dwarfs many other developed countries shows that this binary differentiation is not appropriate in this day and age and so we are calling on that developing/developed differentiation to cease and to look at the actual economic circumstances of each country.”

Robb said the government “want a demonstration” that poorer nations will use the funds from the Green Climate Fund to “leverage private sector investment and identify real projects”.

“They can’t just pocket the $10 billion [currently committed to the fund] and say ‘now what is the next thing’,” he said.

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