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Bishop takes over climate talks in Paris

Foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop erroneously mocks opposition MP Tanya Plibersek over a ‘disappearing’ Pacific  island during Question Time on Tuesday December 1. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop erroneously mocks opposition MP Tanya Plibersek over a ‘disappearing’ Pacific island during Question Time on Tuesday December 1. AAP Image/Lukas Coch

Elise Scott, AAP

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has touched down in Paris to take over negotiations on a global climate deal, with the talks so far marred by slow progress.

She’ll also have a diplomatic quibble to sort out, with the Marshall Islands keen to confront her over a political blunder involving one of the nation’s sunken islands.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum told journalists in Paris he wanted to sort out the saga when Ms Bishop arrived, putting it down to another Australian joke about the Pacific.

‘Australians still haven’t learned that they should not mess with the islands and make jokes about the islands and their plight with climate change,’ he said on Saturday, prior to Ms Bishops’ arrival.

The foreign minister was left red-faced last week after taking a dig at her domestic opposition counterpart Tanya Plibersek, accusing her of fabricating a story about an island called Anebok which lies underwater.

The foreign minister supplemented her claim with a picture of an island well above water, featuring houses, lawns and picnic tables.

However, thanks to a spelling error in an ABC transcript of an interview with Ms Plibersek, the picture produced as evidence was of another island, Eneko.

Anebok has, in fact, sunk.

The blunder comes after immigration minister Peter Dutton was accidentally caught on camera seemingly poking fun at the danger imposed on Pacific Islanders by global warming.

‘Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door,’ he joked of the speed of events during this year’s Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby.

The spat is unlikely to draw away too much of Ms Bishop’s focus from the task at hand, with the second week of the Paris negotiations hoped to forge a historic agreement between 196 parties.

It’s anticipated to be a tough slog, with a slow first week of negotiations producing a text longer than is workable.

There are some predictions the French, who now have control of the process, will have to produce their own, streamlined version in order to get it done in time.

Australia is keen to see five-yearly reviews in the final deal, however questions over which countries should be forced to measure their emissions and how transparent the process should be remain.

Climate finance is also still a sticking point, with Pacific Island nations standing firm on demanding loss and damage – which could be seen as admitting liability and is opposed by rich nations like the United States.

Australia clocked a win in the first week, securing more favourable emissions calculations under the Kyoto Protocol in a deal with St Lucia and South Africa, who had been arguing against using land sector emissions in accounting.

In exchange, Australia would help try to convince other countries to include a reference to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees in the Paris agreement.

Australia’s position even before the talks was not opposed to an aspirational goal of 1.5 being included in the text, despite the country working towards a two degree target.


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