Climate change added to G20 agenda

Heavyweight nations override Australia, adding a significant passage on climate change to the G20 communiqué.

Flags flying high at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia. Picture: GCIS.

BRISBANE - The G20 communiqué will include a significant passage on climate change, EU officials said on Sunday, as the United States and other heavyweight nations override host Australia's attempts to keep the issue off the formal agenda.

Much of the meeting of world leaders in Australia has been overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine, with Western leaders warning Russian President Vladimir Putin that he risked more economic sanctions if he failed to end Russian backing for separatist rebels.

On Sunday, momentum swung back to other major concerns for the Group of 20 leading economies, including climate change.

That is something of an embarrassment for Australia, which had argued it was not a clear economic issue and so should not be discussed at the G20. Indeed, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has questioned the science behind climate change.

"The most difficult discussion was on climate change," an EU official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "This was really trench warfare; this was really step by step by step. In the end we have references to most of the things we wanted."

The official said the passage included practical measures that countries could take and a reference to contributing to the Green Climate Fund, which U.S. President Barack Obama committed $3 billion to on Saturday.

The United States and Europe led the push to have climate change discussed at the meeting, with Obama using a speech on Saturday to warn that Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef was under threat.

"Here in the Asia Pacific nobody has more at stake when it comes to thinking about and then acting on climate change," Obama said. "Here in Australia it means longer droughts, more wildfires."

Asked on Sunday if he accepted that climate change was potentially one of the biggest impediments to global economic growth, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said: "No. No I don't. Absolutely not."

"You just look at China. China is going to continue to increase emissions to 2030," he said. "Australia is doing the same amount of work on climate change as the United States over a 30-year period. Frankly, what we're focussed on is growth and jobs."