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Will Australia be the great coal defender at Lima climate talks


COP20: Lima Climate Talks

People arrive to the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, Monday, December 1, 2014. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP


Powered by article titled “Will Australia be the great coal defender at Lima climate talks?” was written by Graham Readfearn, for on Wednesday 3rd December 2014 09.11 UTC


When a climate science denialist starts congratulating your country on its stance at major international climate change talks, you know things have gone decidedly bad.

That was a year ago in Warsaw, Poland, where Australia was establishing a new reputation as a negative force on global climate negotiations.

“Australia gets it,” said the climate science denialist talking head Marc Morano, a man most often seen verballing peer-reviewed science on conservative American cable news channels.

But Morano made another statement that seemed to be an attempt make the brains of as many greenies as possible go kaboom.

Coal is the moral choice,” said Morano.

But what appeared then to be a ridiculous statement, is now Australia’s official political position.

We’ve had Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “coal is good for humanity”, the Treasurer Joe Hockey’s “we export coal to lift nations out of poverty” and the Finance Minister Matthias Cormann’s “coal is good”.

Kaboom! Kaboom! Kaboom!

Since Warsaw, Australia has also become the first nation in the world to actually remove laws to price greenhouse gas emissions and the Abbott Government continues to push for a cut to its own target on renewable energy generation.

Australia also declared its hottest year on record – 2013 – with 2014 likely to also be among the five hottest years on record (we have also just had the hottest November on record and the hottest spring on record).

Globally, 2014 is on track to be one of the hottest – if not the hottest – years ever recorded.

Now the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 20th Conference of the Parties meeting in Lima (to be hereafter mercifully referred to as COP20) is underway (I’ll be there in three days time).

The key task for negotiators is to have in place the draft text of a new deal to be signed in Paris in late 2015 (at COP21) that for the first time will include all countries – both developed and developing.

Countries won’t need to declare exactly what steps they’ll take in Lima (known as Intended National Determined Contributions, or INDCS) and can wait until March next year, although some have started that ball rolling already.

The European Union wants to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030.

The US wants to cut emissions by between 26 per cent and 28 per cent by 2025 from where they were in 2005.

The US made that pledge as part of a deal with the world’s largest emitter, China, which said it would peak its emissions in 2030 by which time 20 per cent or more of its energy would be coming from “non-fossil” resources such as hydro, solar and wind.

While this sounds promising, if the rest of the world matched the so-called ambition of China and the US, the supposed 2C “guardrail” to avoid dangerous global warming would be overshot (some countries, particularly low-lying ones, say a 1.5C target should be adopted).

That China-US deal has though reportedly put a more optimistic tone on the start of the Lima talks, where Australia has a delegation of 12 – its smallest in years (there were more than 100 at the fateful 2009 Copenhagen meeting).

And whereas in Warsaw the government decided not to send any ministers, this year the Australian delegation will be joined by two – Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb (Robb was shadow minister for Industry and Climate Change for a year in 2008).


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