At a summit in Sri Lanka of leaders of the 53-member Commonwealth – a grouping of Britain and its former colonies – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott rejected a decision to launch a “green capital fund.” The only other country opposing the move was Canada, whose prime minister was one of three Commonwealth leaders boycotting the gathering to protest Sri Lanka’s human rights record.
The troubled summit ended on Sunday with a communique saying the gathering agreed that climate change poses “a major challenge for all countries, particularly for climate vulnerable developing countries, posing a grave threat to some.”
But a plan for Commonwealth members to help small island states and least developed countries (LDCs) access climate funds fell foul of the two large Western members.
“Australia and Canada had reservations … and indicated that they could not support a Green Capital Fund at this time,” the communique said.
The summit ended on the same day tens of thousands of Australians participated in “Climate Action Day” rallies in several cities, protesting plans by Abbott to scrap the former government’s carbon tax, as he had pledged to do while campaigning ahead of last September’s election.
Under the plan, the government since mid-2012 charged major companies for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Abbott says the scheme impacted energy prices and put jobs at risk. Rather than retain the price on carbon, he is proposing a “direct action” policy under which businesses will be offered incentives to reduce their emissions.
Critics say emissions won’t decrease under the plan, since there is no disincentive to continue emitting at the same rate they have been.
The Australia-Canada opposition to the Commonwealth carbon fund proposal follows Canada’s public expression of support last week for Abbott’s plan to abandon the carbon tax at home
“Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal Australia’s carbon tax,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary secretary said in a statement. “The Australian prime minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.”
As Abbott introduced a bill last Wednesday to repeal the carbon tax, Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said Australia was becoming “a global pariah on climate change.”