Tony Abbott did not want climate change to feature at the G20 summit but US President Barack Obama landed in Brisbane with very different ideas.
Mr Obama may be heading into the final two years of his US presidency as a political lame-duck, but his impact in Brisbane shows he remains a driving force on the world stage.
When the US president swaggered into town, climate change was not on the official agenda set by the Australian PM, who’s sceptical of man-made climate change.
But a day later the G20 leaders’ communique included a recommendation that governments contribute to a UN fund to help poorer countries tackle climate change.
Mr Abbott denied Australia had disagreed with the G20 statement on climate change, but conceded there were discussions about the wording.
“Sure different people had different emphasis but all of us want to take strong and effective action against climate change,” he said, adding the issue had always been on the agenda.
It’s understood Mr Obama was supported by other world leaders, but not Mr Abbott, when he argued for the communique to make a stronger stance on climate change, including eventually eliminating fossil fuels.
Mr Abbott wouldn’t be drawn on whether he defended fossil fuels during the summit but said coal would be an important source of global energy for decades to come.
If Mr Abbott thought his efforts to remove climate change from the agenda would be successful, Mr Obama gave him a rude shock on Saturday.
Speaking at the University of Queensland on Saturday, the first US president to visit Brisbane since Lyndon B Johnson in 1966, announced his government had pledged $3 billion pledge to the UN fund.
Mr Obama directly challenged Mr Abbott to step up, saying no other country in the Asia Pacific had more at stake than Australia, before urging the auditorium of mainly students to raise their voices.
“So historically we have not been the most energy efficient of nations. Which means we’ve got to step up,” he said.
In the face of Mr Abbott insisting the summit was about “growth and jobs”, Obama had ensured the issue was elevated to the top of everyone else’s agenda.
The G20 urged nations to reveal what they’ll do to address global warming ahead of next year’s Paris climate summit, where it’s hoped a legally-binding deal will be struck.
Mr Abbott said Australia was a “high performer” when it came to driving down emissions and he would make further decisions about future targets “at the right time”.
Mr Abbott, who has spoken disparagingly about the UN fund in the past, said it was just one avenue for taking action and all nations would approach the issue their own way.
Labor leader Bill Shorten accused Mr Abbott of “desperately” trying to pull climate from the G20 agenda,
“Unsurprisingly, the rest of the world … are determined to act,” he told reporters on Sunday.
Turkey confirmed it would make climate a top agenda issue when it hosts the summit in 2015.