Australia will respond to international pressure and do more on climate change because it will not want to be seen as the “back marker”, British Prime Minister David Cameron says.
During an appearance before a British parliamentary committee meeting held early Wednesday morning Australian time, Mr Cameron was asked by an MP whether there was hope Australia would do more because “the new Australian government is in denial” on the issue.
Mr Cameron did not disagree and told the hearing there was hope Australia would step up its efforts.
“They don’t want to be the back marker, nor should they,” he said. It’s a great country, it’s clearly affected by climate change and I believe they will do more.”
“The truth is Australia is the back marker at the moment,” Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce responded. A back marker is a term commonly used for someone running last in a race.
Mr Cameron replied: “I don’t think they’ll want to be, I think they will feel pressure and want to do more”.
But he said Britain should encourage Australia to mitigate emissions in its “own way” rather than by demanding “some preordained route”.
Mr Cameron pointed to America’s “unexpected bonus” in reducing emissions through extracting shale gas, commonly known as fracking.
“That’s enabled [President Barack Obama] to, I think, make some quite interesting commitments on climate change which is being delivered through all sorts of executive motions rather than Congress,” Mr Cameron said.
“So what do we want to do, the aim? What are we doing? We’re trying to get a global deal to keep below two degrees [of warming]. Every country’s got its own pressures and politics and we need to help everyone get to the right conclusion.”
Mr Cameron did not raise climate change in his official address to Federal Parliament during his visit to Australia in November.
But his comment comes just days after the Abbott government reversed its previous opposition to using foreign aid to help poor countries adapt to climate change and contributed $200 million to the Green Climate Fund.
It also follows President Obama’s decision put climate change at the front of the G20 agenda, a move that deeply embarrassed the host government.
Since then, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said she wants Australia to commit to “strong” climate targets and has backed down on demands that any global agreement struck in Paris next year be legally binding.
The government and opposition are both committed to reducing Australia’s carbon emissions by 5 per cent by 2020. Neither side has revealed what targets they will commit to for 2030.
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