The emissions deal between China and the United States has left Prime Minister Tony Abbott with egg on his face, a climate change analyst says.
Mr Abbott, speaking at the East Asia Summit in Napyidaw, Myanmar, said while welcome, the US-China deal would not prompt him to put climate change on the agenda for this weekend’s G20 Leaders’ Summit in Brisbane.
Mr Abbott said the G20’s focus will be on economic reform, adding that there were plenty of forums where climate change can be discussed.
“Interestingly, we’ve just had the APEC conference in Beijing and climate change was hardly mentioned,” he said.
“It was mentioned in passing by one leader in Beijing.
“And, look, there are lots of venues to deal with climate change. Climate change is a very significant issue.”
Chinese and US leaders negotiated the deal in secret over the last nine months.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was not surprised by the announcement and that it would help Australia develop its own targets to reduce emissions beyond 2020.
“I’m not saying I knew the specifics and that it was going to occur yesterday, but I was aware that the US and China have a climate change dialogue,” she said.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the deal was a “a very important outcome for the world with the US adopting a reduction in their overall emissions and China setting themselves the target of peaking”.
Deal embarrassed Australian Government: analyst
Associate Professor Peter Christoff, a climate policy analyst from the University of Melbourne, said the US-China deal had “embarrassed” the Abbott Government.
“Look, I think the Abbott Government has been severely embarrassed by this announcement and no more so than at a time when it’s quite clear that the Government has been trying to keep climate change off the agenda at the G20,” he told The World Today.
“It immediately leaves the Abbott Government with a problem, because the Direct Action plan that it’s proposing is incapable of meeting targets like the ones that we should be aiming for.”
Associate Professor Christoff said the deal was a “game changer”, because of the pressure it puts on the leaders of other nations in the lead up to the global climate conference in Paris next November.
“[This is] unlike 2009, in the run-up to the Copenhagen negotiations, and… the meeting there where everything came unstuck because China and the United States hadn’t negotiated and collaborated before that meeting,” he said.
“This time we have close collaboration between the two – the world’s biggest emitters and the world’s biggest economies.”
He said there was now a real chance for change at the UN meeting in Paris.
“An agreement certainly is possible now. I don’t think we’re likely to see the sort of catastrophic failure that occurred in Copenhagen in 2009,” he said.
“How strong the agreement is going to be, I think is harder to tell.”
Associate Professor Christoff also said the promise made in 2009 by then prime minister Kevin Rudd to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change committed Australia to unconditionally cut emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 and by 15 or 25 per cent if the major emitters reached agreement.
He said the US-China deal more than satisfied this condition.
“To be honest I think that has been satisfied for some time and Australia should have been aiming for 15 per cent and even more than that,” he said.
“[This overnight agreement] certainly convincingly shows that the major emitters now have got a deal and Australia, therefore, should be moving to, at a minimum, its 15 per cent.”
Associate Professor Christoff said US and Chinese leaders putting numbers on existing measures was an element of the deal, but said a comment from a US Republican leader that the deal asks nothing of China for 16 years was “quite unfair and quite malicious”.
He said, while it was good news that a global climate change deal was more likely, it still may not be good enough to prevent catastrophic warming.
“To be frank, the targets we’re looking at the moment still will not deliver a world in which global warming is limited to two degrees,” he said.