World leaders in the hot seat

Climate change may not have been very high on Tony Abbott’s agenda for the G20 summit held in Brisbane over the weekend, but Queensland’s weather, along with many of the world leaders in attendance, made it clear that the need for climate action would remain a hot topic during the conference.

Vladimir Putin may have received the cold shoulder, but the reception for many other foreign diplomats was warm – and fuzzy – with the leaders of the G20 governments being greeted by cuddly koalas on day one of the conference.

Cute koala cuddles and political differences aside, the G20 conference had many positive outcomes. There were commitments to eradicating poverty, endorsements to close profit-shifting loopholes for big corporations (meaning that corporations may now have to pay taxes more closely aligned to the profits they make to the countries in which they operate), promises to bring more than 100 million women into the global workforce and a resolution to raise global economic output by an extra 2.1 per cent by 2018. This target could potentially add more than $2.16AUD trillion to the global economy and create millions of jobs.

G20 nations have also backed the need for strong action on climate change, an issue for which Mr Abbott had little enthusiasm. Climate change was taken off the agenda by the Australian Government, after Mr Abbott said he didn’t want the talks to be cluttered with issues not directly related to economic growth.

His decision to keep the focus on financial matters drew praise from some foreign diplomats, while other countries, including the United States and members of the European Union, maintained that climate change needed to be a primary theme for discussion. And while Mr Abbott chose to use the world stage to ‘boast’ about his repealing of the carbon emissions tax, US President Barack Obama delivered a rousing speech demanding action on climate change, at the University of Queensland on Saturday – ensuring that it would remain in focus throughout the summit.

The G20 leaders have committed to working together to create a global protocol on climate change to be presented at the Paris climate conference in 2015.


Read the G20 communiqué

Opinion: It’s time for a change in attitude

The G20 summit clearly dominated the headlines this weekend and much controversy surrounded the conference; from the tension brought about by Russia’s involvement in the summit, to reports of Russian warships entering international waters off the coast of Queensland. From Opposition Leader Bill Shorten criticising Mr Abbott’s opening statement – mourning the fact that Australians didn’t agree with policies such as GP co-payments, and that he’s facing a challenge trying to convince students to pay outlandish fees for education, to disputes about the exclusion of climate change from the agenda for discussion.

If the rest of the world’s leaders are pushing for sustainable energy programs, shouldn’t our leader at least be open to discussing this issue with them? Climate change is irrevocably linked to the economy – from the economic outcomes of dealing with climate change, to how we go about developing sustainable energy programs.

Countries including the US and Japan committed to supporting the UN-backed Green Climate Fund during the weekend. So isn’t it time we got on board with our allies for more than just military purposes?

Regardless of the climate change debate, if the ‘measures’ promised by our leaders during the summit become more than mere ‘aspirations’ then the world will indeed be a better place. On the other hand: even if world poverty is solved; or if big business actually pays their taxes; or if 100 million women gain employment; or if the world becomes $US2.16 trillion dollars wealthier, even then, climate change won’t simply go away.

What do you think? Should Mr Abbott keep ignoring the climate change discussion? Do you think climate change is relevant to an economic debate? How will the targets set by our world leaders affect you?