Merkel advisor slams Australia’s coal-friendly energy plan

Canberra’s climate approach branded “weak” and “ridiculous” by influential German scientist

(Pic: UN Photos)

(Pic: UN Photos)

By Megan Darby

A leading German scientist has described the Australian government’s coal-friendly energy policy as a “suicide strategy” for the economy.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who advises German chancellor Angela Merkel on climate change, said Australia’s strategy was not only “weak” on cutting emissions, but economically risky.

In its latest energy green paper, the Australian government said coal exports were “integral to a continued strong national economy”.

The paper was published the same day world leaders gathered in New York for a UN summit to pledge action on climate change. Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was not among them.

Citing expectations China’s coal use will soon peak, Schellnhuber told the Sydney Morning Herald the policy was “ridiculous”.

“If Australia just sits there and says we offer our cheap coal but we have no manufacturing industry, we have slipped from renewables, these are dire prospects for the economy of your country,” he said.

“It’s bad for Australia because you might miss the innovation train.”

Abbott controversially axed Australia’s carbon tax in July, which was the key policy for reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

He sent foreign minister Julie Bishop to the New York summit, where she committed to reduce emissions 5% on 2000 levels by 2020.

That was seen as a weak commitment compared to other developed countries.

Europe is slashing emissions 20% on 1990 levels by 2020, while the US is aiming for a 17% reduction from 2005 to 2020.

“Everybody likes Australian people but nobody liked the Australian government there [in New York],” said Schellnhuber.

“Similar to Canada, Australia for the time being is not part of the international community which is cooperating to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

His comment echo those of Gambia’s environment minister, who told RTCC he was deeply disappointed with Bishop’s comments in New York.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised with Australia,” said Pa Ousman Jarju. “What the foreign minister said was as good as not coming. It’s nothing… as good as not attending.”

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