Australia snubs global climate talks, as Greg Hunt stays home to repeal carbon tax

koala_bearsSource:  The Australian

AUSTRALIA will be represented by a diplomat rather than a senior minister at international climate talks in Poland next week aimed at securing an agreement to cut global carbon emissions.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt won’t attend annual United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw, saying he’ll be busy repealing the carbon tax in the first fortnight of parliament.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will also not attend. Neither her parliamentary secretary Brett Mason nor Mr Hunt’s deputy, Simon Birmingham, have been delegated to attend.

Instead, Australia will be represented by Australia’s Climate Change Ambassador Justin Lee, who is based in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Hunt said through a spokesman that he would be ?fully engaged in repealing the carbon tax? while the conference was underway.

The Environment Minister, who’d been expected to attend the talks, yesterday cancelled scheduled briefings on the Warsaw talks with business representatives, lobby groups and foreign diplomats.

Asked about the decision, Mr Hunt’s spokesman said the talks were a foreign affairs issue.

Australia’s stance at the upcoming meeting was due to be considered by federal cabinet on Monday.

Lobby groups said other nations were anxious to see what role Australia would play in global climate change negotiations under a Coalition government.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Mr Hunt said Australian delegates to the UN climate summit in Poland will seek a ?deep, strong international agreement?.

?The first part of the delegation leaves today for Warsaw and I think there’ll be plenty of engagement with business and community over the coming weeks,? he also told ABC radio.

But the government’s move not to send a minister to Poland has raised eyebrows.

?It’s highly unusual,? the Climate Institute’s John Connor said.

?Australia’s heft is significantly undermined by not having one of its senior elected representatives there.?

A government minister had attended the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks since Ian Campbell headed the delegation under John Howard’s first government in 1997.

Labor sent climate change ministers Penny Wong and Greg Combet from 2007, except last year when the Gillard government’s parliamentary secretary on climate change Mark Dreyfus stood in for Mr Combet.

Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler said the move was unprecedented and sent a bad signal.

?The political statement that’s being made is all negative,? he told Sky News.

?Other countries are going to read into it at best with confusion and at worst that the Abbott government is walking away from global action on climate change.?

While no major decisions will be made at Warsaw, it’s expected the meeting will build momentum in the lead-up to major negotiations for a global agreement on cutting greenhouse gases in Paris in 2015.

Mr Connor said other countries were ?nervous? about the direction the Australian government was heading on climate change, and they’d have to reinforce their commitment to global action.

Mr Hunt said Dr Lee’s delegation would stand by Australia’s target of at least a five per cent emissions cut by 2020 and seek a ?deep, strong international agreement?.

?In my case, we’ve got parliament over the next two weeks and I’m dealing with the legislation for repeal of the carbon tax,? he told ABC radio.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said it was ?understandable? that Mr Hunt was ?embarrassed? by his government’s decision to scrap the carbon tax, but it was no excuse to skip the global summit.

?He should be in Warsaw to face the music,? Mr Bandt said in a statement.

?Action speaks louder than words and once again the climate denialism of the Abbott government is clear from their inaction.?