Paris, AAP – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended his decision not to sign a key fossil fuel communique, blaming a ‘gratuitous’ reference to an International Monetary Fund report.
Mr Turnbull opted out of signing the ‘fossil fuel subsidy reform’ communique – spearheaded by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key – at major United Nations climate talks in Paris.
The decision came as MPs back home on Monday voiced concerns joining the call it could jeopardise Australia’s diesel fuel rebates claimed by farmers and miners.
However, the prime minister blamed the communique’s ‘gratuitous’ reference to an IMF report that found fossil fuel prices should reflect both supply and environmental costs.
He maintains Australia is committed to ending inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, a stance agreed by the G20.
The IMF report went ‘much, much further’ than calling for the end of inefficient subsidies, he said.
‘Australia has signed up on many occasions to commitments and resolutions calling for the elimination of inefficient fuel subsidies,’ he told reporters in Paris on Monday, adding Australia didn’t have any.
‘The document that our very good friend John Key has prepared contains a reference in it to an IMF report which frankly would be better if it weren’t there.’
National’s MP George Christensen took to Twitter on Monday to vent his anger at the potential threat to diesel fuel rebates, claiming their abolition would result in job losses.
‘To sign this is madness. It will cost jobs & give greens ammo to attack coal further,’ he tweeted.
The Australian Conservation Foundation labelled the communique an early test for Australia at the UN talks, saying it wasn’t fair motorists paid for fuel when large mining companies didn’t have to.
However, Mr Turnbull maintains the diesel rebate is not a subsidy.
‘If the fuel tax is designed to fund roads and you are running a diesel generator on a mine site its not fair to ask you to contribute to the building of roads you don’t use,’ he said.
More than 30 countries and hundreds of businesses joined the call for the ultimate elimination of fossil fuel subsidies in Paris.
‘The majority of fossil-fuel subsidies are also socially regressive, with benefits disproportionately skewed toward middle-and upper-middle income households,’ the communique states.
A partial phase out could generate 12 per cent of the emissions reduction needed by 2020 to be on the path towards limiting global warming to two degrees, it says.
Mr Turnbull is in Paris for the climate talks, where it’s hoped 196 parties will sign a historic agreement to curb emissions and limit global warming to at least two degrees Celsius.
Australia will commit to doubling investment in renewable energy as part of Mission Innovation, an initiative involving 20 countries including the United States.
The 20 countries represent 80 per cent of global clean energy research and development budgets.
As part of the plan, Australian government investment in clean energy research and development will double to about $200 million by 2020.