Image for Australia has forfeited world leadership on climate policy, says Kofi Annan panel

Canberra has withdrawn from constructive engagement on the issue, says report, as Australia is grilled at crucial meeting in Germany

Australia has forfeited its position as a global leader on tackling climate change and is now a “free-rider”, a panel led by former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan has said.

The Africa Progress Report 2015 disputes claims by the fossil fuel lobby that moving away from carbon would impede economic growth in developing countries. It says high-emitting nations, such as Australia, have stepped back from global discussions in favour of unilateral action.

“Despite the known threats, far too many countries are failing to take decisive action. Several countries including Australia and Canada appear to have withdrawn entirely from constructive international engagement on climate,” the report said.

It is particular scathing about the direction in which Australia’s climate change policies are headed.

“With one of the world’s highest levels of per capita emissions, Australia has gone from leadership to free-rider status in climate diplomacy. Repeal of the Clean Energy Future Plan effectively abolished carbon pricing. Current policies will result in emissions increasing by about 12-18 per cent above 2000 emissions,” it said.

“End the free rides: Australia, Canada, Japan and the Russian Federation should set a clear course for zero emissions by 2050, with deep reductions by 2030. These countries might consider the far higher level of ambition set by Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda.”

Lobbying by coal companies is becoming more prominent, the report noted, saying they have been “campaigning vigorously” in Australia.

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