Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been very clear about the place of climate change on this year’s G20 summit agenda: It doesn’t have one.
After repeatedly sidelining climate change issues, repealing Australia’s carbon tax, appointing a climate science denier as his top business advisor and referring to climate change science as “crap,” Abbott’s reluctance to deal with climate action is a matter of public record. As the host of this year’s G20 summit, Australia chose the issues on the organization’s agenda; it was no surprise, then, that climate change was left out.
However, at a time when climate politics are gaining popular exposure, the choice was conspicuous, and much ballyhooed by green-minded Australians and environmentalists worldwide. It prompted 350.org Australia to organize 400 demonstrators at Sydney’s Bondi Beach to bury their heads in the sand in mockery of Abbott’s decision.
Both Australia and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have argued that because the G20 summit is an economic forum, climate change has no place in its discussions. But, as the Guardian reports, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu does not share their view.
“The biggest challenge to all humanity today is climate change…every year we are facing new challenges and we are facing new challenges and we need to address this future of ours. If the G20 agenda is only limited to financial issues, G20 cannot function, cannot have global legitimacy,” he said. Turkey will host the next G20 meeting in 2015.
Therefore, U.S. President Barack Obama must have caused a stir in the Abbott administration when he chose to pull climate change into focus on Saturday by announcing a $2.5 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund, which seeks to aid developing countries in cutting their emissions and adapting to climate impacts.
“No nation is immune and every nation has a responsibility to do its part,” said Obama. “You will recall at the beginning I said the US and Australia has a lot in common. Well one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon…which means we’ve got to step up.”
Obama’s announcement follows a joint-pledge by the U.S. and China to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030, an agreement struck between the two superpowers after months of covert negotiations.
Donations to the Green Climate Fund are considered a key step in establishing global solidarity on climate change issues ahead of the Paris 2015 summit.
In a 2013 UN climate meeting in Warsaw, Abbott was quoted as saying, of the GCF, “We’re not going to be making any contributions to that.” The Guardian also reports that, in one of his first cabinet meetings, Abbott referred to the Fund as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism.”
As to how Obama’s public overtures to climate action will affect Australia’s policy moving forward? It’s “exactly where it was before the US-China announcement,” said a former government advisor, “up shit creek.”