Climate activists take aim at former minister over OECD bid

More than two dozen environmental groups and activists have banded together to take down the Australia’s former finance minister, Mathias Cormann.

Mr Cormann is one of the final two candidates in the international race to become to the new head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

But is appears the former Liberal Party member’s past has come back to haunt him, with climate activists claiming the decisions he made while in government should exclude him from the OECD race.

The backlash comes after Mr Cormann embraced green energy as part of his campaign for the job, a move which many claim is in opposition to the climate record of the Liberal government he served as part of.

A letter was sent to the chair of the OECD selection committee calling for Mr Cormann to be removed from the selection process.

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The letter has 29 signatories, including representatives from Greenpeace International, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, Oxfam Australia, The Wilderness Society, The Australian Conservation Foundation and a number of climate campaign groups.

“We firmly believe that the public record of Mathias Cormann should preclude him from being selected as the OECD’s new Secretary-General,” the letter states.

Between 2013 and 2020 when Mr Cormann served as finance minister, the Liberal government “persistently failed” to take effective action on climate change by reducing emissions, the letter states.

The letter claims this means it is “highly unlikely” that Mr Cormann would live up to the environmentally friendly stance he has recently adopted.

“As Finance Minister, Mr Cormann also made various public statements opposing climate action by other actors,” the letter continues.

“For example, in May 2017 Mr Cormann described commercial banks placing lending restrictions on coal as ‘very, very disappointing’.

“We join the many voices around the world, also reflected in the media, with grave concerns about Mr Cormann’s ability to truly ensure the OECD is a leader in tackling global climate change.

“On the basis of Mr Cormann’s public record of participation in thwarting effective climate action, we do not believe he is a suitable candidate for Secretary-General of the OECD and urge you to not select him for this critically important position.”

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This isn’t the first time Mr Cormann’s bid to secure the international job has caused upset, with the British opposition previously demanding UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson blacklist Mr Cormann over Australia’s climate change record.

UK Labour climate spokeswoman Emily Thornberry wrote to Mr Johnson seeking assurances Britain would not back Mr Cormann’s bid, Nine newspapers reported last year.

She reportedly described his climate record as “one of denial, inaction and deeply retrograde steps on issues like emissions trading, carbon pricing, and fossil fuel investment”.

While advocating strengthened trade and security ties with Australia, she said “we would be doing neither ourselves nor our Australian friends any favours by backing an opponent of net zero to take up such an important international role”.

But Mr Cormann said Australia’s per-capita investment in renewable energy was three times as high as the UK last year, and warned against “polarising” the debate.

“The challenge in Australia, and globally, is not about whether to address climate change, but how this is done in an effective and least cost way,” he said.

“To maximise global emissions reduction outcomes, we will have to bring people together, not to continue to polarise the debate. I am well positioned to help achieve that.”

The OECD is expected to name its new secretary-general this month, with Mr Cormann up against Sweden’s Cecilia Malmstrom.

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