Peter Dutton says the sustained expressions of outrage from French President Emmanuel Macron may be related to the European country’s impending national elections rather than the cancellation of a $ 90 billion submarine contract.
Australia’s defense minister told the Nine network that a call on Thursday night between Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been “productive.” The conversation was the first time the two leaders spoke since the inauguration of the Aukus pact triggered a free fall in the diplomatic relationship between Canberra and Paris.
The defense minister said Friday morning that his government understood Macron’s frustration. But Dutton also suggested that the French president could be playing on domestic political sensibilities. “Look, don’t forget also that France has elections in April next year,” he said.
“So politicians and elections always make an interesting mix. So I think once we are done with that next year, hopefully we can continue with the steps to normalize the relationship, but that’s the situation right now. “
France has said it was “betrayed”, “stabbed in the back” and “duped” by Australia’s decision to ditch a French-backed submarine project worth up to A $ 90 billion (£ 48 billion).
During the call with Morrison on Thursday night, Macron told the Australian prime minister that scrapping a multi-million dollar submarine contract “broke the relationship of trust” and said Canberra should propose “tangible actions” to heal a diplomatic gap.
According to a reading of the French government conversation, Macron also encouraged Morrison to adopt a more ambitious climate policy. The most ambitious policy should include a commitment to “cease production and consumption of coal domestically and abroad.”
Morrison is heading to the G20 summit in Rome, which will have a significant focus on climate change, and then to the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, where several world leaders will promise more ambitious climate commitments in the decade through 2030.
Authorities say a bilateral meeting between Morrison and Macron has not yet been scheduled. But the two leaders will meet in Rome and Glasgow.
In addition to the fierce reaction from France, the Aukus pact has caused unrest in Indonesia and Malaysia. Australia’s neighbors are concerned that the deal will accelerate an arms race in the Indo-Pacific. Morrison will meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the sidelines of the G20.
Morrison will also meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Korean President Moon Jae-in, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and World Trade Organization Director General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Saturday.
Australia’s record of Morrison’s call with Macron on Thursday night made no reference to France’s coal push, a position that would be shared by many European countries.
He said Morrison “took the opportunity to brief the President on Australia’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.”
According to a draft of the G20 communiqué obtained by the Reuters news agency, the leaders converging in Rome are working towards a declaration at the end of the weekend summit that will reaffirm the commitment to “eliminate and rationalize” the subsidies to the fossil fuels by 2025 and to curb energy from coal.
The draft statement says leaders “will do everything possible” to avoid building new coal plants incessantly. But he adds the phrase: “taking into account national circumstances.”
Morrison would face fierce internal opposition from the Nationals if substantial commitments were made to phase out fossil fuels. According to the draft G20 communiqué, leaders are working towards a pledge to end public finances for overseas coal plants by the end of this year and target a “largely decarbonized” energy system in the 2030s ”.
There is also an editorial draft on methane. The G20 countries would promise to reduce methane emissions “substantially” by 2030. But that deadline is tentative in the text.
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Before Morrison left for Rome on Thursday night, Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce claimed that his party had secured the exclusion of methane emissions from cattle during recent negotiations on the net zero goal. of the government for 2050, a claim that the prime minister has dismissed. .
But Australia has chosen to exit the global methane pledge, a pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 that will be launched at the Cop26 climate summit next week. Australia is one of the world’s leading gas producers and gas production generates significant methane emissions.
Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor says he will use his time at Cop26 to convince his global peers that Australia is a “safe and reliable destination to invest in gas, hydrogen and new energy technologies.”
The G20 is a precursor event to the United Nations-led climate conference. The UK and US have lobbied leaders to come up with substantial emission reduction commitments by 2030, but the Nationals vetoed an effort by Morrison to raise Australia’s Abbott era target.
Countries will also come under pressure to increase climate finance for the developed world, but Australia has chosen not to participate in the Green Climate Fund. Australia is expected to promise additional funding through new technology partnerships.
Australia is expected to announce new technology partnerships with Indo-Pacific countries during Cop26. There will be more to say about a new Indo-Pacific carbon offset scheme that was flagged in the government’s reboot of climate policy this week.
The prime minister’s main focus at the G20, his first stop, will be to pressure leaders to support stronger global action to protect children on social media. This week, the government noted that social media platforms will face fines of up to $ 10 million for serious privacy violations.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism