As G20 host, Australia wants to stick to economy agenda

Australia has resisted pressure from other countries to make global warming a bigger focus on the forum's agenda

BRISBANE, Australia – G-20 host Australia says climate change and Ebola will be discussed by leaders of the 20 largest economies at a weekend summit here, but those issues will not be allowed to distract from the main agenda of promoting economic growth.

Australia, which is chairing the annual G-20 summit being held this year in the Queensland state capital Brisbane, has resisted pressure from countries including the United States, to make global warming a bigger focus on the economic forum’s agenda.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s 14-month-old government has been widely criticized for repealing a carbon tax which had been paid by 350 of Australia’s worst greenhouse gas polluters.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said on Thursday that Australia welcomed the deal on greenhouse gas emissions announced in Beijing this week by President Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping. China and the United States are the top emitters of gases held responsible for global warming.

“Climate change is both a risk and an opportunity to be dealt with when discussing the global economy,” he told reporters.

Global warming and Ebola, Hockey said, “are part of the agenda, they are not the whole agenda.”

“There will be no single issue that will distract leaders or anyone else from the task of delivering on growth and jobs,” he said.

The Group of 20, which represents about 85 per cent of the global economy, is aiming to boost world GDP by 2 per cent over the next five years, the equivalent of more than $2 trillion.

Hockey nominated making multinational companies pay adequate tax in the countries where they earn their profits as a major focus of the summit.

He called it “theft” when a company does not pay the tax that is due a nation. “It undermines the ability of that nation to be able to deliver the sorts of services that are essential to alleviate poverty and to reduce inequality.”

Aid organization Oxfam welcomed Hockey’s comments on tax reform as a breakthrough because he had failed to mention inequality or poverty at the meeting of G-20 finance ministers he chaired in September.

Health workers on Thursday appealed to G-20 leaders to send more doctors, nurses, medicines and other medical equipment to Ebola-effected countries.

The president of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Abdrafiu Alani Adeniji, who is in Brisbane to lobby delegates, said he fears West Africa’s plight may largely be forgotten at the G-20.

Under the China-U.S. climate change deal, China, whose emissions are rising as it builds new coal plants to fuel its economic growth, set a target for its emissions to peak in 2030 or earlier.

That’s the first time China has set a deadline for stopping its emissions growth. China also said it would increase the share of clean energy sources like wind and solar power to 20 per cent by 2030, about double what it is today.

The U.S. set a goal to make its 2025 emissions between 26 and 28 per cent lower than they were in 2005. That would be faster than previous goals..

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