Australia Sees Limited G20 Appetite on New Climate Change Steps

July 3, 2014

Australia, this year’s G20 chair, sees little consensus among the Group of 20 leading economies to take major new steps on climate change, senior official Heather Smith said on Wednesday.

Smith, the personal representative or G20 Sherpa of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is helping shape the agenda for November’s G20 summit in Brisbane, and spoke of the importance of finding agreement across the group.

There is strong political consensus within the G20 on the importance of political action on climate change, she said, adding that the summit would give momentum to climate change negotiations as it has in the past.

G20 countries are encouraged to invest in green infrastructure, and there was work on reducing fossil fuel subsidies and on climate change financing, she said after giving a speech on Australia’s G20 presidency.

But she added: “You have to find consensus where there is consensus, and there is no consensus in the G20 to do anything beyond those areas I’ve mentioned.

“And it’s not an Australian position. It reflects the membership,” she said, alluding to members that she said were not as vocal as others.

Even on the question of phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, she said the United States was trying to run a pilot project on that but had so far gotten only one other country to join.

“So if countries want to do something, you have to get consensus in order to do them,” she said.

Abbott takes the position that climate change is a significant problem but not the only problem or even the most important one the world faces.

He would like to have his country’s carbon tax repealed, arguing that it harms Australia’s economy without necessarily helping the environment.

(Editing by Ken Wills)

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