Australia abolishes climate change commission

CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Australia's new coalition government has abolished the country's climate change commission.

The Climate Commission, established in 2011 by the previous Labor administration, was charged with providing Australians with "an independent and reliable source of information about the science of climate change, the international action being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the economics of a carbon price."


The move on Thursday, a day after Tony Abbott was sworn in as the country's new prime minister, is part of his plan to scrap government bodies associated with Labor's carbon pricing scheme and climate change policy.

Since 2011, the Climate Commission has compiled 27 reports on different aspects of climate change. Its most recent major report in June, The Critical Decade, warned that the world must "virtually de-carbonise in the next 30 to 35 years," and urged Australia to keep most of its fossil fuels in the ground in order to avoid serious consequences from climate change.

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Australia is one of the world's highest per-capita emitters of carbon dioxide.

The country's coal reserves alone represent about 51 billion tons of potential CO2 emissions, the commission's report said. Australia is the world's fourth biggest coal producer and the second biggest exporter of coal.


Tim Flannery, the now former head of the commission, told a press conference in Melbourne Thursday that he had been informed of the decision to abolish the commission by Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

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Flannery said the commission had "developed a reputation as a reliable, apolitical source of facts on all aspects on climate change."

"I believe Australians have a right to know, a right to authoritative, independent and accurate information on climate change," Flannery said, adding that last summer was Australia's hottest on record, breaking more than 120 heat records across the country.

"As global action on climate change deepens, propaganda aimed at misinforming the public about climate change, and so blunting any action, increases," he said.

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Tony Mohr, climate change program manager of the Australian Conservation Foundation, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Thursday that "it's really unfortunate that we've seen the first few steps of the new government unwind years of progress on climate change action in Australia."

Abbot also fired three Cabinet secretaries and reorganized Australia's government just hours after he was sworn in Wednesday and followed up on his election promise to scrap the country's carbon tax.

"As soon as I return to Parliament House from the swearing-in ceremony, I will instruct the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to prepare the carbon tax repeal legislation," the new prime minister said.

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Under Australia's carbon tax system, introduced by the Labor government in July 2012, the country's top 500 polluters are charged $22 for each ton of carbon emitted into the atmosphere and it would have increased to about $23.40 next year.

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