Cabinet minister Julie Bishop has slapped down suggestions by Tony Abbott that Australia was never meant to be bound by international climate targets.
The former prime minister wants the Coalition government to withdraw from the Paris agreement commitment to reduce 2005 level emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030 – which he adopted as PM in 2015.
“Our 2015 target, after all, was set on the basis that the agreement would be ‘applicable to all … parties’,” he said in a speech to the Australian Environment Foundation on Tuesday night.
“Absent America, my government would not have signed up to the Paris treaty, certainly not with the current targets.”
Mr Abbott has suggested the targets were never intended to be binding, and were aspirational.
But Ms Bishop, who was deputy Liberal leader under Mr Abbott, said Australia always knew it would be bound by international agreements.
“When we signed up to the Paris agreement, it was in the full knowledge it would be an agreement Australia would be held to account for and it wasn’t an aspiration it was a commitment,” she told Sky News on Wednesday.
“Australia plays by the rules – if we sign an agreement, we stick to the agreement.”
She said the targets were agreed by the prime minister, cabinet and party room.
Mr Abbott wants the Turnbull government to pull out of the Paris deal, saying it would be the best way to keep energy prices down and save the Liberals from “a political legacy that could haunt us”.
Ms Bishop and fellow minister Dan Tehan said the government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee – which Mr Abbott claims is being driven by the Paris agreement – was already bringing down prices.
“Any commentary aside from that, I think, misses the key point,” Mr Tehan told the ABC.
Senior Labor MP Chris Bowen said he was personally sad to hear Mr Abbott’s comments, but fundamental divisions in the government went beyond the former PM.
“You see this chaos and dysfunction at the heart of the Turnbull government when it comes to the important matter of energy policy,” he said.
“We’ve got to have consistent settings when it comes to policy for energy.”
His colleague Richard Marles said it was clear Mr Abbott still believed climate change is “crap”.
Mr Abbott said he could understand why Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was seeking to “crack the so-called trilemma of keeping the lights on, getting power prices down and reducing emissions in line with our Paris targets”.
“It’s just that there’s no plausible evidence all three can be done at the same time,” he said.