Former United States vice-president Al Gore has flown into Australia for a whistlestop tour that includes meetings with state government ministers and senior business figures as part of efforts to build global momentum towards the Paris climate change summit later this year.
Mr Gore arrived in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon, heading to a speaking engagement and then dinner with Victorian ministers and senior executives from major companies, including BHP, National Australia Bank and Qantas, to discuss climate change and the importance of the Paris meeting, at which it is hoped a new international agreement to curb global warming will be signed.
The last trip down under for Mr Gore was marked by an extraordinary intervention in Australian politics. He attended a joint press conference with Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer, who announced his party would not support cutting the national renewable energy target or the Climate Change Authority, but would conditionally back axing the carbon price.
It is unlikely Mr Palmer will feature on this trip. Instead on Monday Mr Gore will speak at a meeting of state climate ministers, then later give a presentation at the University of Melbourne.
Ministers from Labor-led Victoria, Queensland and South Australia will attend Monday’s meeting with Mr Gore. Conservative-led NSW will send a senior public servant, as will Labor-led ACT. Tasmania, Northern Territory and Western Australia will not be represented.
The meeting is expected to produce a statement of agreed principles among the ministers attending, including a promise to develop and support measures to reduce greenhouse gases in order to help meet the internationally-agreed goal of curbing global warming to two degrees.
In recent forums Mr Gore has emphasised the importance of “sub-national” governments acting on climate change alongside efforts at the national level.
Victorian Environment Minister Lisa Neville told Fairfax Media she believed there was a consistency of views across Australian states about climate change.
“I think there is a willingness for all the states to be working in this space,” Ms Neville said.
“I am confident that over the next few months leading into Paris that will strengthen and we can work more closely together.”
The head of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, will also address the meeting via Skype to talk about the overseas experience of state climate action. California has its own emissions trading scheme and has created significant financial incentives to encourage solar power.
The Andrews government has launched a review of Victorian climate law, while also promising to develop a renewable energy plan.
On Monday, Environmental Justice Australia will release a proposal for a Victorian Climate Charter, which it says is modelled on the state’s existing Human Rights Charter.
The proposed charter would set legally binding emissions targets on the state government. The green legal group puts forward a 25 per cent cut to Victorian emissions from 2000 levels by 2020, and a complete decarbonisation goal by 2050, as the goals it thinks the state government should adopt.
The charter would ultimately allow Victorian citizens the power to take their government to court for failing to act on climate change.
It would also force the state government to ensure any legislation it prepares complies with principles set out in the climate charter, while a “climate test” would also be implemented and have to be part of all government financial and administrative decisions.
The charter would also ensure the government develop a strategy to meet its emissions targets and establish a Victorian Climate Authority to advise and oversee climate action.
Nicola Rivers, from Environmental Justice Australia, said: “In the absence of federal action on climate change, it is up to the states to lead.”