Australia ‘Implementing Tony Abbott’s Policies' at COP21 Says Opposition Leader

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KYLA MANDEL AND BRENDAN MONTAGUE IN PARIS

Bill Shorten, the Labor leader, attacked Australian climate policy as lacking in ambition today at the Paris climate conference.

Shorten held an impromtu press conference among surprised reporters at the COP21 conference moments after the country’s new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced his commitment to the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol.

Today Malcolm Turnbull has turned up and played it safe,” he said. “He’s keeping the right wing of his own party happy. He is really basically, with a slightly different rhetoric, implementing the substance of Tony Abbott’s climate change policies which were notorious for not being serious.”

He added: “The whole point of gathering is not just to do very little and just commit to the second stage of Kyoto, it’s to move beyond that,” he continued.

Abbott has long been known to doubt the science of climate change. Naomi Klein went so far as to call him a climate “villan”.

Low Bar

But then this past September Turnbull challenged Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party and within half a day, had been voted the new leader. Environmentalists heralded this as an important win against climate denial.

However, Shorten argued today that despite this change in leadership, the country’s policies have remained the same. “It’s a pretty low bar this Australian government had to measure up to,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is what Australia’s government is saying is we’re not Tony Abbott but the truth of the matter is we’ve still got Tony Abbot’s policies. What has changed other than the prime minister in terms of Australia’s climate change efforts?

Nothing has really changed. Australia is playing it safe … and in the meantime we’re seeing for instance the Canadians who… not only have they changed their prime minister but they’re doubling the amount of money they’re putting into adaptation and climate fund programmes globally, and that’s not the case in Australia.”

When pressed on whether this still marked an improvement given Abbott’s notorious climate inaction, Shorten said: “Most Australians if they were replacing Tony Abbott would have done more than Tony Abbott has done. Using Tony Abbott as your benchmark on serious climate change policy is not really setting much of a test is it?”

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Kyla is a freelance writer and editor with work appearing in the New York Times, National Geographic, HuffPost, Mother Jones, and Outside. She is also a member of the Society for Environmental Journalists.

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