Climate Change at Risk in G20 Agenda as Australia Sees No Agreement Among Member Economies

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Steam rises from the stacks of the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant
Steam rises from the stacks of the coal-fired Jim Bridger Power Plant outside Point of the Rocks, Wyoming in this file photo taken March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/Files REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Climate change action is at risk of not being a priority in the G20 agenda as Australia "sees little consensus" among the group of leading economies. According to senior official Heather Smith, who is also the personal representative of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said G20 countries have yet to agree on taking major new steps to address climate change.

Smith said there is a need to find agreement among the group of countries. Reports said there is a "strong political consensus" within the G20 about the need for political action in response to climate. She said the G20 summit in Brisbane in Novemver will push climate change negotiations as they gain momentum.

After a speech on Australia's G20 presidency, she said G20 countries were encouraged to invest in green technology and infrastructure. She added there was work being done to lower subsidies on fossil fuels and climate change financing.

She added it's not Australia's position but the membership as the reason for the lack of consensus on climate change. She cited a pilot project of the United States about phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and said only one country had joined.

Mr Abbott has taken the position that climate change is a "significant" problem but is not a priority and not the only issue the world faces. He is firm on the issue of carbon tax repeal because he believes it will only harm Australia's economy and not necessarily "helping" the environment.

Several reports have surfaced about Australia's worsening dry spells, intense heat waves and frequent bushfire seasons. These should be causes for concern Mr Abbott and the Coalition government after CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology previously released the State of the Climate report. The two-year study has prompted calls for curbing carbon emissions from human activities. Greenhouse emissions are already at record levels. Climate scientists predicted the world will be 5 degrees hotter by 2070.

BHP Billiton Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie has expressed his support for Abbott on his decision to forgo climate change in the agenda despite the country's image as "being disengaged" from the global climate change debate. The head of the world's largest miner said he doesn't think the move is a backward step and agreed with Mr Abbott to focus more on other issues.

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