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Britain, New Zealand reject Tony Abbott's idea for alliance to block action on climate change

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Australia lagging behind on climate change: expert

Australia's direct action response is much weaker than policies being adopted by other countries, including the US and China, says Professor Michael Raupach.

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The UK's conservative climate and energy minister has rejected suggestions his government could form an alliance of "like-minded" nations with Australia to oppose carbon pricing.

Greg Barker has put an end to Prime Minister Tony Abbott's dream that a group of five countries could be formed to undermine global moves to install carbon pricing and challenge a push by US President Barack Obama for stronger international regulation of climate change.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen are increasingly isolated in their push to limit action to mitigate climate change.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen are increasingly isolated in their push to limit action to mitigate climate change. Photo: Andrew Meares

In moves that show Australia is increasingly isolated on the subject, New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has also said he was caught off-guard by the idea of an alliance and signalled his government has no intention of walking away from its emissions trading scheme.

The comments leave Canada, with its anti-carbon tax prime minister Stephen Harper as Australia's only likely ally on the subject.

Mr Barker told British media on Wednesday that the UK would not be joining Australia to challenge international regulation of carbon emissions.

''I think you can take it the UK won't be joining an alliance against regulation. We are engaged with Australia and New Zealand, encouraging them to take a responsible proactive part in seeking an ambitious global treaty on climate change,'' he said.

''It was something the [British] Prime Minister [David Cameron] has raised on occasion with the Prime Minister of Australia. I think we do have a slight difference of view here, but we have very strong ties here and whatever discussion there is will be framed positively.''

Earlier this year, Mr  Cameron said he believed that ''man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces''.

And earlier this week, Mr Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said political leaders had to recognise that climate change was the number one priority for governments as the most significant issue the planet faces.

Mr Obama has also regulated that emissions from coal-fired power plants must be reduced by 30 per cent by 2030 and also expressed his preference for carbon pricing or a cap-and-trade system to combat rising greenhouse gas emissions, but has had difficulty getting measures past hostile Republicans.

Mr Abbott, by contrast, has said repeatedly that while climate change was "a significant problem, it's not the only or even the most important problem the world faces".

In New York on Thursday, Mr Abbott again said he would not support measures such as carbon pricing or emissions trading to combat climate change, saying ''I am not going to take action on climate change which clobbers our economy''.

''We are proposing to spend some $2.5 billion on direct action climate change measures. If this was to translate to the United States that would be a $40 billion – a $40 billion program – over four years. Now, I think that would be a very, very substantial program should something like that be put into place here in the United States.''

When asked if he would challenge Mr Obama on the ways to combat climate change, Mr Abbott responded: ''If climate change does come up in further discussions here in the United States I will be pointing to the scale of what we are doing in Australia as evidence of our deep seriousness of this issue.''

In New Zealand, a spokeswoman for Mr Key said Mr Abbott had not spoken to him about the suggestion of a group of five countries but hosed down any suggestion New Zealand would be part of it.

''This government takes climate change seriously,'' the spokeswoman said.

''That is why we were one of the first countries to introduce a comprehensive emissions trading scheme and why we're actively involved in international climate change efforts.''

Mr Abbott's stance on climate action has also drawn criticism from retiring US politician Henry Waxman, who was at the forefront of clean energy bills in America.

Mr Waxman said Australia, along with Canada, risked being ''behind-the-scenes laggers'' rather than leaders on climate policy.

Both nations risked being out of sync with Europe and the US. ''I hope Australia doesn't turn its back on its leadership role and become a drag on what we need to all be doing around the world,'' Mr Waxman told ABC's 7.30 on Wednesday.

The retiring senior Democrat also criticised the Coalition government's ''voluntary'' direct action policy as ineffectual. ''That never worked anywhere,'' he said.

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