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How Australian diplomacy protects fossil fuels


Richard Denniss & Allan Behm on ‘How Australia undermines global climate action’

Successive Australian governments have been adamant that they accept the science of climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Australian representatives even voiced their frustration at being excluded from the High Ambition Coalition formed at the COP21. But Australia’s actions in a wide range of multilateral forums, combined with the shape and size of Australia’s domestic energy investment, suggest that it has other motives.

The whole structure of the UNFCCC framework helps fossil fuel exporters such as Australia by focusing attention on countries that burn fossil fuels, not on the countries that produce them. For example, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of iron ore and the second-largest exporter of coal, but when China combines Australian iron ore and coal to make steel for cars that are exported back to Australia, China is assigned responsibility for the emissions from steel-making and car manufacture. Further, the UNFCCC framework has made achieving emissions reduction targets even easier for countries that “offshore” much of their emissions-intensive manufacturing, as Australia has done in recent decades. Neither the Paris Agreement nor the Kyoto Protocol mentions the words “coal” or “gas”.

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