Julie Bishop coughs up loose change for climate in Peru; taunts China, USA to show her the money.


Julie Bishop coughs up loose change for climate in Peru; taunts China, USA to show her the money.

Global warming may well increase rather than diminish the chill experienced by Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister at the UN Climate Change Convention’s Meeting in Lima, today. Lima is the planning session before serious national commitments to curb global carbon emissions are made in Paris next year and Bishop, one of Australia’s most ambitious yet least successful foreign ministers in the nation’s chequered history, has just incurred further icy disdain after presenting her paper justifying Australia’s position on not paying less than its fair share amount into the UN Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Bishop’s paper also rationalises other obstructive and unhelpful Abbott government actions calculated to lower the cooling climate of world opinion towards itself and Australia’s status as a global citizen.

In her typically abrasive and ill-considered manner, Bishop has further stunned delegates and observers from the 194 nations attending the talks by suggesting China’s commitment to cap its emissions before 2030 is a sham, stating that China’s commitment amounts ‘to nothing more than business as usual.’

The Minister’s condemnation, which is markedly less well-researched, substantiated or well-measured as one might expect, or, indeed, require from a Foreign Minister has already quickly been refuted as a baseless slur:

“If implementing carbon pricing, seeing a peak in coal consumption around 2020, and building renewable energy capacity the size of its current coal capacity is business as usual for China, Australia should be reconsidering its own business as usual path,” the Climate Institute’s Erwin Jackson said.

Yet not all of Bishop’s speech was directly offensive. In a rapid change of heart, or in a concession to pressure from other nations as voiced by China, Bishop did make a surprise announcement that Australia will pay $250 million into UN Green Climate Fund but experts have already described this as substantially below the nation’s fair share of the load. Aimed at raising $100 billion a year in government and private finance, the UN fund is seen as vital to gain agreement between developed and developing countries. China’s lead negotiator Su Wei last week criticised Australia’s decision as “disappointing”.

But if Australia’s change of heart is to silence China, the amount is not designed to mollify.

For Climate Institute’s Erwin Jackson the total amount is “modest” given it “falls short of the $350 million per year [we] suggest is the minimum fair contribution to climate financing from Australia. Yet others are worrying where the money is coming from.

Has the Minister had to dip into her own ministerial budget? Some commentators, including Greens Christine Milne, note the sum is coming out of an already cash-strapped foreign aid programme and protest that it is ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul.’

Revealingly, the diversion of funds from foreign aid into climate change betokens a weather-change from Bishop or, indeed, another broken promise from her government. Bishop was adamant in an ABC interview in 2012, when in opposition, that climate change funding should not be “disguised as foreign aid funding,” adding: “We would certainly not spend our foreign aid budget on climate change programs.”

It is not hard, in the end, to detect an unseemly haste as befits her beleaguered government’s increasing adhockery: Bishop’s gesture has been made quickly, without any clear plan or properly funded strategy. Did she do it off her own bat and out of her own portfolio, knowing there would be other source of funds? If so, is she being penalised by PM Abbott for her initiative; punished for her quick thinking?

What is clear is that Australia was forced into this decision. It comes at the end of weeks of censure after the Abbott government tried to bump the fund off a G20 communique and after Australia snubbed other world leaders by refusing to attend a Berlin conference designed to raise an initial $10 billion for the Green Fund. Yet this has not prevented Greg Hunt from spinning a different scenario, albeit a fantastically implausible scenario. Speaking on ABC Radio News this afternoon, Hunt surprise informed listeners with the line that Lima was ‘the conference’ where it was always going to happen. What he meant was that Australia always planned to contribute. If this were the case, why then was Abbott planning to send no delegates at all? Why was there no budget for this planned contribution? As always with his government’s attempts to explain its erratic decisions, even an inconvenient lie is its preferred option.

We know, too from the interview she gave with the AFR, that Julie Bishop practically had to head-butt Peta Credlin and to call a meeting of cabinet to be permitted to attend Lima and even then her paranoid PM insisted she be chaperoned by climate change sceptic Andrew Robb. The ad-hoc nature of her attendance will not have gone unnoticed by other governments all around the world.

Although she has managed to offend a good many nations including China, The United States and Indonesia, Bishop’s cold shoulder is not completely personal,: the rest of the world is getting heartily sick of Australia’s unhelpful denialist attitude, its lack of good faith and its bad global citizenship which includes the advocacy of fossil fuels, the promotion of Direct Action, an untried, unworkable, specious plan to curb emissions by paying polluters to clean up their act, and its senior Ministers’ denial of climate change.

Other snubs and slights have been keenly felt by UN members. In a calculated pattern of offensives, Australia has until now refused climate finance, rubbished the actions of China and the US, the two most powerful nations attending, cut funding to a key UN body, distanced itself from a group of progressive nations, joined with others to delete text that would require a review of its pre-2020 commitment, and despatched climate sceptic Trade Minister Andrew Robb to accompany Bishop at the talks.

Recently, as G20 meeting host nation, in Brisbane, Australia won no hearts and had many world leaders scratching heads when Canute-style it vainly and foolishly attempted to keep climate change off the agenda, despite climate’s rightful primacy over any mere economic or financial discussion and despite its being in other ways also the most pressing issue facing all nations.

Australia’s recalcitrance dates from the 2010 Copenhagen Accord on global warming and climate change, and has helped spur Barack Obama and China to chide the nation it for its dereliction of duty of care towards the planet and towards its own world heritage site, The Great Barrier Reef. Bishop and Abbott may be seething about Obama upstaging their G20, but truth be known, it was bound to happen; it was something their own attitudes invited.

The Abbott government which originally planned to show its hand by boycotting the Lima meeting and which openly advocates the burning of coal to generate electricity has now run to wilful obstruction. Australia’s latest transparent ploy is to stymie any effective international action on climate change by proposing that Paris targets be legally binding.

So far, the reaction from the French, who are committed to making the Paris conference succeed, has been to contemplate not inviting PM Abbott, or indeed any other government leaders, at all but rather, in the spirit of practicality confining attendance to those lower-ranking delegates who would create less obstruction and who would actually do the work required to reach agreement. The world would be grateful. In the interim, Julie Bishop will continue to spread Christmas cheer by sneering at other governments’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions and join with Minister Hunt in promoting Australia as a paragon of climate responsibility because of its small total of emissions, even if per capita it remains one of the world’s worst polluters.

Australia continues to rapidly alienate the rest of the world because of its global delinquency. Is it any wonder that it finds itself increasingly isolated, meeting by meeting, day by day and that it will soon find itself a total pariah, backward looking and ignorant, spurned by all as an unwelcome brake on the efforts of responsible progressive governments to achieve consensus in combating global warming, the biggest challenge faced by all nations to our continued existence; a cause above petty rivalries, self-interest and wilful ignorance.