Climate change 'off G20 agenda'

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has downplayed the likelihood of climate change being discussed at a G20 leaders' summit hosted by Australia, suggesting it does not fit the meeting's economic focus.

Asked about pressure from the US and Europe for climate to be included on the agenda for the November meeting in Brisbane, Mr Abbott said there were other international meetings that were more appropriate for discussing the issue.

''It's also important to ensure that these international meetings don't cover all subjects and illuminate none,'' he said.

Mr Abbott agreed the efficient use of energy was an important economic issue and said he would be surprised if climate change was not raised, but added: ''The focus of the G20 will overwhelmingly be our economic security, our financial stabilisation, the importance of private sector-led growth.''

His comments followed US and Chinese leaders revealing new plans to tackle climate change.

A top Chinese climate adviser told a Beijing conference that the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gas would put a cap on emissions for the first time in its next five-year plan, starting in 2016.

He Jiankin, the deputy director of China's National Expert Committee, later clarified he was stating his personal view, not that of the Chinese government.

US President Barack Obama announced he would regulate to cut emissions from power plants to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 - considered the most significant step he has taken to tackle global warming.

Also this week, the European Union reported its emissions were 19 per cent lower than in 1990 and South Korea said it would tax coal imports and cut duty on alternative fuels from July.

Australia will become the first country to abolish a carbon pricing scheme if the Abbott government's repeal legislation is passed by the incoming Senate. In its place it is proposing a ''direct action'' scheme, which would involve the government paying some companies to cut emissions.

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said climate change was ''clearly an economic issue'' and should be on the G20 agenda. But he acknowledged it was a crowded agenda and there was a complicated political trade-off in deciding what was discussed.

He said Mr Obama would face a political fight to introduce his plan, but it would put pressure on Australia to boost its target of a 5 per cent emissions cut below 2000 levels by 2020.

Labor environment spokesman Mark Butler said Mr Abbott should not stand in the way of other countries discussing climate change at the G20 just because he held a different political position.

Greens leader Christine Milne said financing tackling climate change had to be on the G20 agenda. ''Our Prime Minister is so backward he doesn't seem to understand the connection between climate change and economics.''

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