The European Union Commissioner has expressed surprise Prime Minister Tony Abbott has snubbed important UN climate talks with 125 other heads of state across the world next week… but she’s probably the only one.
Mr Abbott won’t be in attendance at the UN Secretary General’s climate change summit in the UN, but will jet in to New York in the same week for talks on terrorism, Iraq and Syria.
He’s one of the few world leaders to miss the summit, with US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron confirming attendance, as well as the world’s largest carbon emitter China, which has sent its vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.
Mr Abbott told the ABC this morning his first duty is to the Australian parliament, where he is expected to introduce new anti-terror laws designed to crack down on Australians considering taking up arms with the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
While Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be in attendance, the two countries have sent their environment ministers.
Australia is sending its foreign minister Julia Bishop.
European Union commissioner Connie Hedegaard told the ABC she was surprised at Mr Abbott’s non-attendance.
“It is, of course, I think, a pity that not everyone is going.
“At least 125 heads of state have sent a strong signal to the rest of the world that… climate change is important, and they know they have a role to play and a responsibility to take in order for the world to address climate change.
“I do not know what the reasons would be behind it, but of course, the world will interpret who is showing up and who will not be showing up.
“So that’s for your Prime Minister and for your government to decide, what kind of profile they want in this.”
Mr Abbott defended his non-attendance by stating he has more important business in parliament.
“My first duty in a sense is to the Australian Parliament and that’s where I’ll be early in the week,” Mr Abbott told ABC.
“There are quite a lot of things happening in the Australian Parliament in the next week or so.
“… Australia is committed to a 5 per cent reduction in our emissions, we are confident we can do it without a job-destroying, economy-wrecking carbon tax.”
But there is little evidence the carbon tax was “economy wrecking” or “job destroying”.
According to an ANU study, it lowered Australian carbon emissions by between 11 and 17 million tonnes and its impact on prices was so low the Australian Bureau of Statistics couldn’t measure it.
Meanwhile, the Coalition’s Direct Action policy has come under fire for merely being a token policy while the axed Climate Change Authority in 2013 warned the 5 per cent emissions reduction target would leave Australia lagging behind other comparable nations.
Mr Abbott’s climate change snub follows his government’s decision not to include climate change on the official agenda at the G20 meeting in Brisbane later this year.
That’s despite climate change being on the official agendas of the last three G20 summits.
While visiting New York earlier this year, Mr Abbott knocked back suggestions climate change was the most important global issue of our times.
“Climate change is a significant global issue – it is a very significant global issue. Is it the most important issue the world faces right now? I don’t believe so.”
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