Climate policy 'needs independent institutions'
Climate change expert Frank Jotzo says independent institutions like the Climate Commission are key to good climate policy.PT10M33S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2u9ci 620 349 September 23, 2013
Australia's international commitment to tackling climate change is in doubt, with the Abbott government refusing to say if a senior official will lead a key meeting of a giant new United Nations fund for developing nations.
Ewen McDonald, acting director-general of Australia's main aid agency, AusAID, is scheduled to co-chair the board meeting of the Green Climate Fund from October 8 to 10 in Paris.
Tony Abbott: Working away from climate policies.
The fund is intended to become a major conduit for state and private funds totalling as much as $US100 billion ($106 billion) annually by 2020 to help poorer nations shift to low-carbon energy and build resilience against global warming impacts.
''The [fund's] interim secretariat expects that Mr McDonald will attend and co-chair the meeting,'' said a spokeswoman for the fund, based in Incheon, South Korea.
AusAID's executive declined to say whether Mr McDonald will take his leadership role in France. The Department of Foreign Affairs, which Prime Minister Tony Abbott directed to absorb AusAID, also declined to comment.
''We will consider issues carefully and will not rush to make premature judgments,'' said Greg Hunt, the new Environment Minister, referring to Australia's support for the fund. He declined to say if Mr McDonald would go to the Paris meeting.
Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler said Kevin Rudd's first act as prime minister in 2007 was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to combat climate change. By contrast, the Abbott government had moved ''to axe the Climate Commission, abolish our investments in renewable energy, abandon a price on carbon pollution and tear down our international commitments to action''.
''Tony Abbott's $4.5 billion cut to foreign aid puts our contribution to the Green Climate Fund at risk, damages our international reputation and makes it practically impossible to meet our fair share of the internationally agreed goals for climate finance,'' he said.
The Labor government contributed almost $600 million to the Fast-Start precursor program of the Green Climate Fund in the three years to June 30. Australia also chipped in $500,000 last year as one of eight nations helping to get the fund going.
AusAID's website says the Green Climate Fund ''could become a key channel through which the Australian government delivers its multilateral climate change finance for developing countries''.
Mr McDonald's one-year tenure as co-chairman of the fund's 24-member board is due to end at next month's meeting. Formerly AusAID's deputy director, he became acting director-general last week after Peter Baxter stepped aside after the agency's merger with the department.
Simon Bradshaw, Oxfam's climate change advocacy co-ordinator, said non-government aid organisations met Mr Hunt in February to make the case for more climate aid, particularly to vulnerable Pacific communities.
''The discussions we've had with [the Coalition] suggest they may be more inclined to strengthen existing bilateral relationships'' rather than back multilateral efforts, Dr Bradshaw said. ''We are keen for more detail on how the new government intends to fulfil its ongoing international climate finance commitments.''
Rob Fowler, Australian representative of the International Emissions Trading Association - a Green Climate Fund observer organisation - said the fund could mesh with the Coalition's alternative policy to carbon pricing.
''There's a very strong alignment between direct action policy, in terms of funding abatement, and what countries are trying to do with the GCF, which is to fund direct abatement,'' he said.
Australia's stance towards the fund and wider climate action - to be on display in November at a summit in Poland - will be watched by other energy exporting nations.