Zed Seselja says Turnbull government committed to climate change agreement, but if the US pulls out, it would put a question mark over the deal
May 8, 2017 — A leading government conservative has put a question mark over Australia’s continued participation in the Paris climate agreement in the event Donald Trump decides the United States will pull out.
The assistant minister for social services and multicultural affairs, Zed Seselja, one of the government’s up-and-coming conservative figures, told Sky News on Monday that “as it stands” the Turnbull government was committed to Paris agreement, but if the US quit the pact, that would change the nature of the agreement.
He added Canberra was currently “doing more than our share, in my opinion”.
Seselja said Australia was committed to the Paris agreement and had put forward targets. “They are strong measures: 26-28% [in greenhouse gas reductions]. So we are doing more than our share, in my opinion,” he said Monday.
Asked about what would happen if Trump followed through with his campaign threat to pull out, Seselja said: “When it comes to the US’s position that is a matter for the new US administration.”
The Coalition frontbencher said if America withdrew, that would change the nature of the agreement. “Obviously you wouldn’t want to speculate, but if they were to pull out obviously that would change the nature of that agreement.
“But as it stands, the Australian government is committed to the Paris agreement.”
Trump is believed to be close to making a decision about whether to stay the course on the Paris agreement or pull out. The president has previously promised to “cancel” the deal, but reports suggest his advisers are split over whether quitting the compact would be worth the resulting diplomatic fallout.
The president has already signed a new executive order to unravel a number of Barack Obama’s regulatory measures to combat climate change, including eliminating the clean power plan, which sets limits on the amount of greenhouse gases that power plants emit.
Seselja’s comments on Monday follow an earlier public warning from the chair of the Turnbull government’s backbench committee on environment and energy, fellow conservative, Craig Kelly.
Kelly said Australia would need to review its participation in the Paris agreement on climate change if Trump pulled out.
Asked a month ago whether a majority of his Coalition colleagues would be in favour of quitting the Paris deal in the event Trump pulled out, Kelly told Guardian Australia “it would be a close run thing”.
If Trump withdraws, it would embolden conservative MPs to reopen a deeply contentious issue within Coalition ranks.
The Turnbull government has been attempting to hold the line on the Paris deal, arguing once Australia makes a commitment to a global deal, it follows through.
The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, told reporters last November, on the day the Australian government ratified the Paris accord, that Australia would stay the course.
He indicated it would take the US four years to withdraw from the agreement after ratification in the event Washington resolved to quit.