UK Climate Change Committee chair brands Australia 'a disgrace' and its PM 'a denier'
The chair of the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee has called Australia “a disgrace” and accused its prime minister of being a climate “denier”.
In an interview with Holyrood, Lord Deben also criticised the UK Government's decision to sign a trade deal with Australia, despite concerns over the country’s approach to the climate.
Australians go the polls on Saturday in a vote which will decide the country’s next prime minister and which party is in power.
The country’s current prime minister, Scott Morrison, has been criticised for this approach to climate change, despite Australia recording a number of extreme weather events in recent years such as devastating bush fires.
Scientists have said global warming has increased the risk of bush fires by 30 per cent.
Asked who he believed the international laggards are when it comes to tackling climate change, Lord Deben, a Tory peer and former Conservative cabinet minister, said: “Australia is a disgrace.
“Which is why we should never had signed that trade agreement with Australia; it was wholly wrong. We shouldn’t be signing agreements which do not include our climate change commitments.
“Why should Scottish farmers increasingly have to find ways of dealing with their land in a climate-friendly manner if in 15 years they’re going to find their livestock is being competed against by countries that don’t?
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves – Brexit has made it much harder. Many of the things we warned about Brexit have come true. The biggest problem is that the government is so determined to show that it can sign trade deals that it signed two trade deals in which Australia and New Zealand got everything they wanted, and we did not insist on the climate change elements.”
Asked what made Australia’s position so egregious, Lord Deben said: “Oddly enough, you’d have thought, given the terrible examples of climate change, people would actually recognise it.
“But I’m afraid there are very large numbers of people who are either deniers like (former prime minister and now UK Government adviser) Tony Abbott was or clearly actually deniers as (current prime minister) Scott Morrison is. He says he isn’t, but he wouldn’t be doing the things he’s doing and not doing the things he ought to be doing if he really believed in it.”
Lord Deben said it was a matter of “great sadness” that Australia “should be setting this very poor example”.
Australia, a large exporter of fossil fuels, has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
But Morrison, who attended the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, has said the plan does not include closing the country’s fossil fuels sectors.
Writing in a newspaper column last year, he said: “We won't be lectured by others who do not understand Australia. The Australian Way is all about how you do it, and not if you do it. It's about getting it done.”