Environment Minister Greg Hunt has had a testy exchange with a BBC presenter in an interview over bushfires and climate change.
Interviewed on the BBC’s Newshour program, Mr Hunt cautioned against drawing a link between the ongoing New South Wales fires and climate change.
“I looked up what Wikipedia said for example just to see what the rest of the world thought,” he said.
“And it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year, large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires, and that’s the Australian experience.”
Mr Hunt defended Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s views on climate change after host Razia Iqbal quizzed him on Mr Abbott’s past description of climate change as “absolute crap”.
“In Parliament our Prime Minister has expressed clear support for the science,” he said.
Ms Iqbal then pressed Mr Hunt as to whether Mr Abbott still thinks climate change is “absolute [bleep]”.
“Look, with great respect you can swear on international radio, you can invite me from Australia to do this, you can be profoundly rude, I’m happy to answer, but I’m not going to be sworn at,” Mr Hunt responded.
UN climate chief issued bushfire warning earlier this week
Earlier this week, on CNN, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, had said no link had been drawn between the New South Wales bushfires and climate change yet.
But she warned of increasing heat waves and said bushfires will continue in intensity and frequency.
“We are really already paying the price of carbon. We are paying the price with wildfires, we are paying the price with droughts,” she said.
Yesterday, Mr Abbott accused Ms Figueres of “talking through her hat”.
On the BBC, Greg Hunt was asked whether he agreed with the Prime Minister.
Christian Figueres softens climate change comments
“I actually spoke with Christiana Figueres and she indicated very clearly and strongly that she was not saying that there was scientific evidence that these bushfires were caused by climate change. She felt that that had been misrepresented,” he said.
Ms Figures also told CNN that Australia was “struggling” with how it will meet its international commitments on climate change.
“They are going to have to pay a very high political price and a very high financial price, because the route that they are choosing to get to the same target that the previous government had could be much more expensive for them and for the population,” she said.
After speaking with Mr Hunt, she issued a statement in which she appeared to walk back from her comments.
“Mr Hunt and I discussed his government’s plans to achieve a 5 per cent cut in emissions by 2020 via a suite of measures including an Emissions Reduction Fund,” she said.
“The Government of Australia informed me that they will be on track to achieve that aim, which I wholeheartedly welcome.
“There are several ways in which a meaningful global price on carbon can be achieved, ranging from taxes to market mechanisms, and each country must decide what makes most sense given its national circumstances.
“The new Australian administration has chosen a new pathway towards this goal under its Direct Action Plan. I was pleased to hear from Minister Hunt that the Emission Reduction Fund allied to forestry measures and targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency will deliver their internationally agreed targets in a cost-effective manner,” she said.