Australian team burns midnight oil to win Paris agreement

By The Mandarin

December 11, 2015

Thirty sleep-deprived Australian bureaucrats are hunkered down in a Paris conference centre seeking agreement with governments around the world on reducing carbon emissions.

As negotiators embark on closed all-night meetings to try to reach a new global climate agreement after a fortnight of talks, a spokesperson at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told The Mandarin the Australian team is “working hard with other countries to deliver a strong and ambitious” new deal.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (pictured) is leading the Australian delegation in the final hours with environment ambassador and chief negotiator Peter Woolcott. DFAT says a team of 30 Canberra officials from its team, the Department of the Environment and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet are involved, with support from the Australian embassy led by ambassador Stephen Brady.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull joined world leaders at the opening of the conference, and Environment Minister Greg Hunt led talks last week.

Woolcott is a senior career officer at DFAT put in charge of Australia’s delegation by Bishop. He was previously Australia’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva and to the Conference on Disarmament, after a career serving in various roles for DFAT in Jakarta, Honolulu, Buenos Aires and Kingston. He acted as Alexander Downer’s chief of staff as foreign minister in 2002-04.

Teams are poring over a new draft agreement, with all countries being given time to air their views. The Guardian reports statements where there is disagreement have been reduced from 1600 to 50 in the latest draft. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the media they were “extremely close to the finishing line”.

Yesterday, Fairfax Media reported Bishop signed Australia up to a New Zealand-led declaration backing the use of international carbon markets — an apparent shift in thinking by a government that dismantled Labor’s carbon price.

DFAT told The Mandarin in a statement:

“A negotiating team … are playing an active and constructive role to deliver an agreement in Paris.

“Around 200 Australian stakeholders are also attending the conference, including representatives from business, NGOs, universities, state and local governments, political parties and the media.

“Australia is promoting many side events at COP21 including a panel drawing on the knowledge of indigenous people to respond to climate change through traditional fire management.”

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