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Tony Abbott seeks alliance to thwart President Obama on climate change policy

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Canada and Australia 'like family': Abbott

Tony Abbott has praised Canada's approach to climate change, and emphasised the close ties shared between the two countries.

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Tony Abbott is seeking a conservative alliance among "like-minded" countries, aiming to dismantle global moves to introduce carbon pricing, and undermine a push by US President Barack Obama to push the case for action through forums such as the G20.

Visiting Ottawa for a full day of talks with the conservative Canadian Prime Minister and close friend Stephen Harper, Mr Abbott flagged intentions to build a new centre-right alliance led by Canada, Britain and Australia along with India and New Zealand.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both say there is no need for carbon pricing to combat climate change.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both say there is no need for carbon pricing to combat climate change. Photo: Andrew Meares

All five Commonwealth countries now have "centre-right"-leaning governments but it is Mr Abbott's personal and philosophical closeness to Mr Harper that the Prime Minister regards as most important.

The combined front would attempt to counter recent moves by the Obama administration to lift the pace of climate change abatement via policies such as a carbon tax or state-based emissions trading. It is a calculated attempt to push back against what both leaders see as a left-liberal agenda in favour of higher taxes, unwise interventions to address global warming, and an unhealthy attitude of state intervention.

Mr Abbott's first visit to the US has begun on a shaky note after he characterised Mr Obama’s new push to reduce carbon pollution as a copy of ''direct action'' being pursued in Australia. Mr Abbott is due in New York on Monday local time.

Speaking at a media conference on Tuesday from the Canadian capital Ottawa along-side the anti-carbon tax prime minister Stephen Harper, Mr Abbott said the he was encouraged at the new US approach of requiring coal-fired power stations to cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, because it did not place a price on carbon but used regulation to cut pollution.

''We think that climate change is a significant problem, it’s not the only or even the most important problem the world faces but it is a significant problem and its important every country should take the action that it thinks is best to address emissions,'' he said.

''I am encouraged that President Obama is taking what I would regard as direct action measure to reduce emissions, this is very similar to the action my government proposes in Australia.''

He said it was import that policies to address output did not ''clobber the economy'' while not helping the environment.

The comments were immediately backed up by Canada with Mr Harper declaring there was no chance of any country acting for the planet if it involved costs to its economy.

''It's not that we don't seek to deal with climate change,'' he said.

''We seek to deal with it in a way that enhances our ability to create jobs and growth, this is their position.

''No country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately harm jobs and growth in their country,  we are just a bit more frank about that than other countries.''

The uncompromising attitude of both leaders suggests neither is inclined to yield to pressure from the US to revive the issue of climate change ahead of next years’ climate summit, nor back any international coordination such as additional regulations or a trading scheme.

Last week, Mr Obama flagged regulatory changes aimed at influencing US states to adopt aggressive market interventions to address global warming - a move that has attracted criticism on the right that Mr Obama is acting now only because he is not seeking re-election.

US officials have also been pushing Australia - so far unsuccessfully - to include climate change on the agenda for November's G20 meeting in Brisbane.

In a statement certain to raise eyebrows in the US, Mr Abbott, who is to meet Mr Obama in the White House later this week, underlined his opposition to carbon pricing. ''There is no sign - no sign - that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted,'' he said. ''If anything, trading schemes are being discarded, not adopted.''

Before leaving Australia, Mr Abbott said the G20 summit in November was primarily about economics and the United Nations was the place to discuss climate change.

''I'd be surprised if climate change doesn't come up as part of the G20,'' he said, though climate change will figure in discussions about energy efficiency.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten took aim at the Prime Minister's ''flat-Earth views'', accusing him of being out of touch with Australians and world leaders such as Mr Obama. He told Fairfax Media that climate change was ''not just an environmental issue, it is a security issue and it is absolutely an economic issue''.

But Mr Shorten said that Mr Obama, along with other world leaders, had clearly recognised that clean air, low pollution and new technologies would be good for the global economy and job creation.

He said Mr Abbott ''shouldn't shirk the issue when he meets President Obama later this week, and he shouldn't shirk the issue at the G20 later this year''.

While mooted as a potential member of Mr Abbott's new coalition, British Prime Minister David Cameron has been vocal about the need to tackle climate change, describing it in February as ''one of the most serious threats that the world faces''. Britain, through membership of the European Union, and New Zealand both have emissions trading schemes in place.

Battle against terrorism

Mr Abbott also wants to use the combined strength of countries such as Canada and Australia to ensure the fight against terrorism is maintained, and to enlist support for policies designed to promote increased global growth of an extra 2 per cent per annum. The alliance would boost security and intelligence gathering, escalate the war on people smuggling, and entrench a new form of "economic diplomacy" over the traditional reliance on multilateral international control.

Mr Abbott said the global security situation was in danger of deteriorating as Australians and other nationals returned home radicalised from wars such as that in Syria.

"It is concerning people right around the world, we have an ongoing Islamist terror threat and the situation in Syria has the potential to escalate that threat as militarised radicals come back," he said.

"The vigilance that has been maintained since 2001 needs to be increased in these circumstances and it's certainly no time to be reducing the emphasis on good intelligence, which has been a very important part of Australia's response to the terror threat ever since then.

"We should never ever apologise for doing what's necessary to protect ourselves and to help our friends, and that's exactly what the five eyes arrangements are designed to do."

The Abbott plan would promote privatisation, increase security surveillance of the population, and lower taxes while making a political virtue of cutting spending to achieve an early surplus and the prospect of pre-poll tax cuts.

With James Massola

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456 comments

  • There seems to be a few messages here:

    • Several countries such as the UK and Canada agree with Australia’s position on climate change
    • Carbon pricing isn’t exactly flavour of the month in the USA or elsewhere, and has struggled in Europe both economically and environmentally
    • A medium to long term plan should be developed to address climate change rather than temporary regressive band aids like an ETS
    • The previous Australian government seemed to blindly follow the Europeans in terms of debts, deficits and carbon taxes – those days are thankfully over

    Commenter
    Hacka
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    June 10, 2014, 7:03AM
    • Still reading from the Coalition advisories then?

      Commenter
      ALRowse
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:10AM
    • The main point is that the g20 can deal with real issues of economic growth. Fringe issues like discussing the weather are topics best discussed with the taxi driver one the way to the economic meeting.

      Commenter
      cwitty
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:16AM
    • No Hacka, only one message and that is far right wing neo cons like Abbott and Co are completely out of step with the rest of the world and it will cost us dearly.

      Commenter
      hiphop
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:17AM
    • "We think that climate change is a significant problem"

      That statement from Tony Abbott has just devastated the non-believers. What will Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones have to say about their mate now?

      Commenter
      Coalition Middle Class Welfare Party
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:19AM
    • Yes Hacka, lets follow Canadia and Britainy and Newest Zealand all the way !

      Commenter
      hiphop2
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:19AM
    • Yes lets all just put our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is happening - after all what do scientists know?..lets all just go to church and everything will all be ok god will fix everything.

      The fact that our PM believes in God and not scientific evidence says a lot about his agenda!

      Commenter
      George
      Location
      East Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:19AM
    • Hacka
      You just believe what you wish and we'll deal with reality on your behalf.
      "Kobad Bhavnagri, Australian head at analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said it was wrong to claim trading schemes were being discarded. He said China started six regional emissions trading schemes in the past year - building towards a national scheme expected to be in place this decade.
      In the US, he said the recently announced emissions limits on coal-fired power plants - expressed as targets imposed on the states by the Environment Protection Agency - would likely lead to more states adopting emissions trading to deliver required cuts.
      ''Apart from Australia I don't think any other country has plans to unwind an emissions trading scheme. That assertion they are being discarded is incorrect,'' Mr Bhavnagri said."
      There's much more detail, information and education awaiting you here in Fairfax today: http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbott-missing-signs-of-worlds-switch-to-carbon-trading-experts-say-20140609-39t8q.html

      Commenter
      rext
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:20AM
    • "There seems to be a few messages here:" Hacka says

      None of which he seems to have the intelligence to understand

      Thank God he and Abbott have the traction of a child's Tonka toy, when it comes to the intellectual lifting needed to make decision.

      Move on, nothing to see here, just a failure blathering under instructions.

      Commenter
      Axis
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:22AM
    • You have shame, do you? David Cameron has stated many many times that he is a firm believer in addressing climate change and it says it in the article. There may be a basis for a centre-Right alliance on other issues, but decidedly not on climate change.

      Commenter
      Rich
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 10, 2014, 8:23AM

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