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'Conservationist' Abbott links himself with Obama on climate change

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Mark Kenny, Judith Ireland

Eye to eye with US: Tony Abbott says he does not disagree with Barack Obama on climate change.

Eye to eye with US: Tony Abbott says he does not disagree with Barack Obama on climate change. Photo: Andrew Meares

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described himself as a ''conservationist'' who has no disagreement with President Barack Obama on climate change.

In an interview with Fairfax Media in Washington, Mr Abbott said any divisions between Australia and the US over climate policy were overblown, insisting both he and the US President took climate change ''very seriously''.

Mr Obama is understood to have told Mr Abbott that while his administration wanted more co-ordinated international action on global warming, including a price on carbon, he accepted the Coalition had a mandate from the Australian people for its limited ''direct action'' policy.

''We all want to do the right thing by our planet,'' Mr Abbott told ABC Radio on Friday. ''I regard myself as a conservationist.''

In the lead-up to the talks, there were fears differences between Mr Abbott and Mr Obama over climate change would hamper their first meeting since Mr Abbott won government.

But at the media conference after their meeting, neither Mr Abbott nor Mr Obama raised the climate issue in their statements and they did not take questions from the media.

Mr Obama has set a 30 per cent cut in emissions from coal-fired electricity generation by 2030, which he hopes to achieve through a combination of regulation and a price on carbon.

This is in contrast to Australia's more modest target of a 5 per cent cut in the 2000 emissions levels by 2020.

During his travels, Mr Abbott has said there are bigger problems than climate change, and in his meeting with conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the two made a point of reinforcing their opposition to carbon pricing.

Mr Abbott suggested an alliance between conservative-led countries to block action on climate change that included emissions trading schemes or pricing carbon, which was immediately rejected by Britain and New Zealand.

While Mr Abbott's meeting with Mr Obama dealt with security and foreign policy, it is understood climate change was raised in the context of energy efficiency being discussed at the coming G20 meeting.

The Prime Minister has been resisting a push by US officials to have climate change included on the agenda for the meeting in Brisbane in November.

But Mr Abbott told the ABC he did not want to characterise his discussion on the matter with Mr Obama as ''agreeing to disagree'', describing it instead as ''constructive'' and ''good''.

''I don't think people should run around pretending there is disagreement where none exists,'' he said. Both countries had strong and effective policies in place or coming into place.

The Obama administration failed in its first term to get Congressional support for a carbon price.

Since then it has relied on regulations to raise emissions standards for autos, power plants and other sectors, and its latest plans allow states with carbon prices to use those markets to achieve pollution cuts.

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