Australia's climate change stance attacked by UK MP

Richard Benyon, Conservative PPC, election 2001
Image caption Mr Benyon sees no contradiction between conservatism and environmental protection

Australia's climate change stance is "incomprehensible" and "profoundly un-conservative", said a leading UK MP.

In an opinion piece published in Fairfax Media, Conservative UK MP Richard Benyon criticised PM Tony Abbott's leadership on the issue.

The former UK environment minister and member for Newbury said Australia was ignoring climate change at its peril.

The comments come as Australia expands its fossil fuel industry and weakens support for renewable energy.

Mr Benyon said Mr Abbott's recent decision to cut Australia's renewable energy target was "bewildering" for a country with almost unlimited renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

"Meanwhile, the giant new coal mining and coal exporting operations on which Mr Abbott appears to be betting Australia's financial health look increasingly risky investments, with bank after bank refusing to back them and demand from China, the world's biggest coal-burning nation, falling," wrote Mr Benyon.

'Distorted vision'

"Most of all, Abbott's dismissal of climate science and his belief that Australia must choose between economic growth and tackling climate change speak to a distorted vision of what it means to be a conservative," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Abbott has reduced government support for wind power

Since winning government in 2013, Mr Abbott has scrapped a number of initiatives introduced by previous governments to address rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Last year, during a visit to Canada, Mr Abbott said climate change was "not the only or even the most important problem that the world faces".

Australia is still largely powered by coal and is one of the world's biggest exporters of coal.

On a per capita basis, Australians are among the world's heaviest emitters of carbon.

Australia's climate change policies include:

  • Repealing a carbon pricing scheme - the "Carbon tax" - introduced by the previous government
  • Cutting a national renewable energy target that would have ensured 20% of power came from renewable sources by 2020
  • Criticising wind turbines as "visually awful" and "noisy"
  • Launching a parliamentary inquiry into suggestions wind turbines damage human health
  • Scrapping an election commitment to rollout out one million rooftop solar systems

Mr Benyon said conservative UK leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron had proved it was possible to deal with climate change while pursuing economic growth.

"To run against the prevailing wind is to risk alienation, and those who like Abbott persist in regarding climate change as a left-wing conspiracy based on speculative science are in a rapidly dwindling minority," he wrote.

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