Abbott declines invite to Ban Ki-moon climate summit

Australian prime minister says he will not be among world leaders attending climate summit in New York

Pic: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr

Pic: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr

By Sophie Yeo

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott will not attend a landmark UN climate summit, which the UN Secretary General will host this September.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon met with Abbott yesterday, where the prime minister confirmed he would bypass the summit, Australian media Fairfax reported.

Ban has stressed that climate change should be a priority among world leaders. His climate spokesperson, Dan Thomas, said: ”We think that climate change should be the No. 1 priority for all leaders to consider,” responding to Abbott’s comments that climate change is “not the only or even the most important problem the world faces”.

The summit is being hosted as an opportunity for world leaders to declare their ambitions on how they will tackle climate change. It will be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Other world leaders have indicated they will attend, including the leaders of Denmark, France, Venezuela and the Marshall Islands.

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Australia’s rejection of the summit is the latest indication that Abbott places scant importance on the climate change agenda.

Speaking earlier this week alongside Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Abbott called for an alliance with other conservative countries to block new climate regulation – a suggestion that was swiftly rejected by the UK and New Zealand.

John Connor, head of The Climate Institute in Australia said that it is desirable that all leaders attend, but it is more important that they come with a meaningful contribution to the summit.

“If they’re there to be a blockage we wouldn’t be encouraging them to attend, but we do think it’s important that Australian leaders understand that there is action happening across a range of countries that are fighting carbon and encouraging clean energy,” he said.

He added that Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop was planning on attending the UN’s December climate conference in Lima, and so he is “not writing off Australia completely”.

At last year’s conference in Warsaw, Australia attracted criticism for not sending a minister to the talks, as well as for their attitude to negotiations, during which they were accused of “gorging on snacks”.

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