CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who rose to power in large part by opposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, is finding his country isolated like never before on climate change as the US, China and other nations signal new momentum for action.
Abbott tried and failed to keep the issue off the agenda of the annual G-20 summit of wealthy and emerging countries that was hosted by the Australian city of Brisbane in mid-November. An agreement between Washington and Beijing to curb emissions, announced days before the summit, suggests he had misjudged the international mood on the issue.
Next week, attention turns to the next round of international climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru. For a nation of just 23 million, Australia has played a significant role in past talks, but this time it’s unclear what kind of role its delegation, led by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, will play.
Abbott’s conservative coalition won a landslide election victory last year over the Labor Party, which had grown unpopular in part because it had approved one of the world’s highest taxes on major carbon gas polluters. Abbott not only ended that tax but years earlier helped scuttle an effort by his own Liberal Party to reach a bipartisan deal on a carbon-trading scheme, intended to encourage industries to produce less emissions.
G-20 heavyweights including the United States and Europe steamrolled Australia’s efforts as summit host to keep climate change off the agenda in Brisbane. In the end, the G-20 agreed to work together toward a global agreement on reducing carbon gas emissions at a major UN climate change conference in Paris in September 2015.