Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper have condemned carbon taxes during their first bilateral talks in Ottawa.
Both conservative leaders have campaigned against carbon pricing, and in the face of US president Barack Obama’s push to get power producers to cut emissions, the prime ministers said the taxes are “job-killing” measures that would hurt their economies.
Under cloudless skies in the Canadian capital, Mr Abbott was given the warmest possible welcome as he arrived to meet Mr Harper at Parliament Hill.
A marching band played as a guard of honour assembled and fired a 19-gun salute.
Inside the pair sat down for what the bilingual Canadians call a tête-à-tête or head-to-head meeting.
Mr Abbott did not even try to hide his admiration for the more senior conservative statesman.
“I’m happy to call you an exemplar of centre-right leadership,” Mr Abbott said.
It is well known the prime ministers sing from the same song-sheet, so many of Mr Harper’s phrases had a familiar feel.
“Throughout your time as chair of the G20, you’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones – most notably, the job-killing carbon tax,” Mr Harper said.
Unity ticket against carbon pricing
They are a unity ticket against carbon pricing, but both men say they are doing more to cut emissions than Mr Obama, who is currently pushing for global action.
Mr Abbott acknowledged that climate change is “a significant problem”. But he added: “it’s not the only or even the most important problem that the world faces.”
“We should do what we reasonably can to limit emissions and avoid climate change, man-made climate change, but we shouldn’t clobber the economy,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Obama’s plan is to cut emissions from US coal plants 30 per cent by 2030, pushing the US closer to an emissions reduction target pledged at UN climate talks in 2010. Canada will miss its target.
Both countries have committed to reducing emissions by 17 per cent below their 2005 levels by 2020. But Canada produces less than 2 per cent of global emissions, while the US produces nearly 20 per cent.
“It’s not that we don’t seek to deal with climate change, but we seek to deal with it in a way that will protect and enhance our ability to create jobs and growth and not destroy jobs and growth in our country,” Mr Harper said.
“And, frankly, every single country in the world, this is their position: no country is going to undertake actions on climate change, no matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country.
“We are just a little more frank about that, but that is the approach that every country is seeking.”
Russia ‘behaved very badly indeed’, Abbott says
Mr Abbott and Mr Harper are also firm G20 allies, and denounced Russian president Vladimir Putin yesterday, though they are not ready to boot him out of the economic grouping just yet.
“Plainly Russia has behaved badly, very badly indeed, over Ukraine, but the G20 is still some five months away and let’s hope Russia behaves better,” Mr Abbott said.
The leaders also agreed on the importance of sharing spy material, pursuing global growth and smaller government.
“Prime Minister, you and I both know that budgets do not balance themselves,” Mr Harper said.
But later today the meetings of mutual admiration end. After a dinner in Mr Abbott’s honour, the Prime Minister jets off to the United States for the pointy end of his international tour.