The COP20 climate talks in Lima, Peru concluded yesterday. It will take a while to sift through the outcomes and figure out what they mean, but for now I want to concentrate on the Australian government, which has unsurprisingly continued its crusade against climate action.
Unlike last year when Australia didn’t bother to send a minister to the talks, this time around we’re sending two. Unfortunately neither of them is the Environment Minister: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb. Both of them are climate change deniers, and they are accompanied by BHP lobbyists.
According to news reports, this unusual arrangement is due to a power struggle between Bishop, PM Tony Abbott, his Cabinet, and his chief of staff Peta Credlin. Credlin blocked Bishop’s initial proposal to attend the conference, Bishop bypassed Credlin by securing Cabinet’s approval, and Abbott personally requested that she be chaperoned by Robb. Robb was a key player in installing Abbott as Liberal Party leader five years ago. It’s unclear whether this intrigue is over policy differences or simply power. Reportedly Bishop’s reason for attending is so Australia doesn’t look bad for not attending, but on the other hand Abbott is apparently concerned that Bishop might agree to something “too green”.
There is little danger of that. Australia has been declared the world’s worst-performing developed country in a new Climate Change Performance Index report from think-tank Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN). Denmark came in at fourth place, with the top three rankings left blank to symbolize the reality that no country is doing anywhere near enough.
CAN has also granted Australia five Fossil of the Day awards. The first and third were for refusing to contribute finance to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – more on that in a moment. The second was for arguing that the promised “loss and damage” mechanism should be merely part of adaptation. The fourth was for trying to remove from the negotiating text any mentions of “global solidarity” and the agreed goal to limit global warming to below 1.5-2°C above preindustrial, saying they do not understand the concept of a temperature limit. The fifth was because Robb told an audience of Australian businesspeople that Australia won’t sign up to next year’s agreement if it disadvantages us relative to our “major trade competitors” (who apparently now include Saudi Arabia, the most anti-climate country of all). Finally, Australia received the Fossil of the Year award for all of the above and more.