11/17/2014 05:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Don't Mention the Climate!


Don't Mention The Climate

The efforts of the Australian Prime Minister to keep climate change strictly off the G20 agenda is proving farcical.

World leaders including Barack Obama, Ban Ki Moon and Pope Francis have in unison advocated that climate change is a defining global problem which ought to be on the G20 Agenda in Brisbane.

Climate change looks to be the elephant in the G20 conference room that just won't stay quiet!

Tony Abbott's best efforts to reign in the agenda of the summit to the politics of economic reform is falling apart even before the summit closes as U.S.-China emissions targets, Russia in Ukraine, and the Ebola epidemic grab all the headlines.

Since elected in 2013, Prime Minister Abbott has been quick to repeal the carbon tax and dismantle the national climate mitigation framework.

Australia is rapidly backsliding on climate change at a time when the rest of the world is waking up to a low-emission future through technological innovation and sustainable practices.

Tony Abbott has become the poster-boy for the environmentalists dart board in recent years. Since becoming leader of the opposition in 2009 he shifted the stance of the Australian Liberal Party from support for emissions trading and acknowledgement of the dangers of climate change to a policy of climate skepticism and science-bashing. All too well summed up by his quip that climate change is absolute "crap" in 2009 and that "coal is good for humanity" during the opening of Caval Ridge coalmine earlier this year.

David Cameron joined a growing host of world leaders to call for Australia to do more to tackle climate change. Saying that "countries that have so far done the least have to think about what more they can do" in a comment looking ahead to the Conference of Parties next year in Paris where a landmark deal on climate change could be reached.

Responding to climate criticism, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey, re-asserted the economic focus of the conference saying: "We cannot afford to deal with climate change if governments are in recession or if countries are facing huge structural challenges."

This quote pretty much sums up the blinkered short-term views of the Abbott government who have no foresight to 'build back better' when it comes to economic reform. Long-term job creation through genuine sustainable investment, green technology and renewable energy has been neglected.

Combined with Tony Abbott's no-show at the United Nations New York Climate Conference earlier this year, the 'blocking' of climate change from the G20 agenda has cemented Australia as a global pariah on the issue with ramifications which will reach far beyond the environmental sphere. As Australia celebrates its coal industry, the world is moving on.

Abbott's Direct Action policy to replace the scrapped carbon tax, which offers to pay polluters to reduce carbon emissions, has not been well received as there is no legal obligation for polluting companies to participate. While promoting this Direct Action, the government is trying to lower renewable energy targets, which currently stand at 20% by 2020 / 41,000Gwh, and promoting the excavation of fossil fuels like coal is going out of fashion.

However, Tony Abbott's 'Don't Mention The Climate' Basil Fawlty-style approach to sidelining climate change from the G20 has had at least one inadvertent and ironic positive effect.

The extensive media coverage of Tony Abbott and his fruitless attempt to hold back the global tide of climate change has once again raised the issue onto a global platform.

Being a climate change naysayer has been proven to be an international no-go as the Australian leader is becoming an embarrassment on the issue as mounting pressure from global leaders casts a fossil fuel-induced shadow over the reputation of the host country.

As we look ahead to Paris 2015, hopefully this lesson will ensure that countries bring the best cards to the table for a new climate deal.