The government has moved to scrape off another “barnacle” by announcing it will provide A$200 million over four years to the Green Climate Fund, despite its earlier criticism of the initiative.
But it has also said it will not release its post-2020 emissions reduction targets until the middle of 2015. This is after the first quarter timetable that countries are being urged to meet if they are in a position to do so, and that the US, the European Union and China are working towards.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is at the United Nations climate conference in Lima, Peru, that the money for the fund would come from Australia’s aid program.
The pledge would facilitate private sector-led economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region, focusing particularly on investment in infrastructure, energy, forestry, and emissions reduction programs.
While Abbott has previously been dismissive of the fund, Bishop had made it clear a contribution had not been ruled out.
Asked whether this was another policy backflip, Abbott told reporters: “I’ve made various comments some time ago but as we have seen things develop over the last few months, I think it is now fair and reasonable for the government to make a modest, prudent and proportionate commitment to this climate mitigation fund. I think that is something a sensible government does.” The money would be “strictly invested in practical projects in our region”.
Australia has faced criticism from other countries for not stepping forward to participate in the fund.
As well as the statement in Canberra, Bishop made the Australian announcements in a speech in Lima.
As it scrambles to appear not to be marginalised in the international climate discussions, the government will establish a taskforce in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to propose possible new post-2020 targets for Australia to take to the Paris conference in December 2015, which aims for an international agreement on post-2020 action.
The statement said the review by the taskforce would take into consideration what the major economies and Australia’s major trading partners were doing.
“Any new post-2020 target would be announced in mid- 2015 after the taskforce has completed its work,” the statement said.
“All countries should take practical and proportionate steps to take action on climate change while safeguarding economic growth,” it said.
“Australia is already making major contributions to address the effects of climate change, including through national direct action and international engagement, including our aid program.”
Bishop said Australia’s contribution to the Green Climate Fund could be seen in the context of its broader environmental program. She also announced Australia would make a new contribution to the Global Green Growth Institute of $10 million over two years from 2015-16.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2013, Australia and Canada indicated they could not support the Green Climate Fund at that time. Canada recently announced a contribution to the fund.
John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, said the contribution to the fund was a welcome first step but the government “shouldn’t be hijacking the aid budget” to get the money.