Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has taken it upon himself to mock COP26 president Alok Sharma for his heartfelt apology for the way the climate summit unfolded and the final watered-down deal on coal.
“Give me a break,” Joyce said on Monday. “These people are not worried about the environment; they just want to end up on television.”
“It annoys me that, what is that guy’s name? The chairman, Sharma with his gavel and ‘oh, I’m almost crying, I can’t do this’. He wants to talk about shutting down our coal industry, but he never talks about shutting down the oil fields in the North Sea.”
“All the corporate billionaires and all the movie stars and chairman Sharma and all the tears as they shut down our industries. But they don’t want to touch their own.”
Alok Sharma, a British Minister and President of the UN Climate Summit, told delegates the last-minute changes to the COP26 agreement were disappointing and, appearing emotional, said he was sorry – especially to climate-vulnerable countries – for the way the talks unfolded.
“May I just say to all delegates: I apologise for the way this process has unfolded and I am deeply sorry. I also understand the deep disappointment, but I think as you have noted, it’s also vital that we protect this package.”
At the summit, delegates from around the world applauded Sharma for his emotional response as he regained composure and continued his speech.
The COP26 pact included a final resolution to water down the language around coal, specifically changing the words “phase out” to “phase down”. The change came after a last-minute intervention from countries including India and China, and is considered a massive blow for nations most vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, who came to COP26 asking for greater ambition and more action from the highest-emitting nations.
ABC host Patricia Karvelas also asked Barnaby Joyce if it was fair to mock the COP26 president for being emotional about the negotiation process at COP26, but Joyce instead said he was cynical about the summit and those who are pushing for more climate action.
“Look at every airport chock-a-block full of corporate jets. Give me a break! These people aren’t worried about the environment,” Joyce said.
Joyce’s comments about Alok Sharma follow other comments that the Nationals did not “sign” on to the final COP26 communique, and the party he leads was happy with the federal government’s 2030 emissions targets as they are.
“The Nationals did not sign it. I did not sign it,” Joyce said.
“I am an executive member of this government. We are happy with our targets, with negotiations the Nationals had with the Liberals, and we said that we wouldn’t be changing our 2030 targets.”
“Let me ask you this, you are the Deputy Prime Minister and you are saying, ‘I didn’t sign it?’” Karvelas asked Joyce, after he said the Nationals, as part of the Coalition government, did not sign the communique.
“I know, you don’t have to keep telling me that,” Joyce said.
“How did it possibly happen that your government signed something that you reckon you didn’t sign? Are you not an executive member of this government?” Karvelas asked.
The continued fracturing of the Nationals with their coalition Liberal partners comes as Labor has said if it is elected, it will commission the treasury department to model the cost of climate change to the economy, and in the federal budget.
Meanwhile, Scott Morrison has indicated in the wake of COP26, that the government will not increase its 2030 target, despite Australia being a signatory to the COP26 agreement for countries to come back in 12 months having revisited and strengthened their 2030 emissions targets.