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NGOs slam OECD candidate's 'terrible' climate record

Patrick GALEY
·3-min read
NGOs have written to the OECD drawing attention to what they say are former Australian finance minister Mathias Cormann's statements opposing climate action

The Australian politician seeking to head the OECD should be ruled out of the role due to "grave concerns" over his record on climate change, leading environmental groups have said.

More than two dozen global civil society leaders have written to the OECD's selection chair to draw attention to what they say are former finance minister Mathias Cormann's statements opposing climate action.

Cormann is considered a top contender to become secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 37 of the world's richest nations that helps set international standards across multiple sectors.

"In the context of the need to take urgent systemic action to avoid a climate catastrophe that will further entrench poverty and inequality, 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 says.

"We join many voices around the world... with grave concerns over Mr Cormann's ability to truly ensure the OECD is a leader in tackling climate change."

Cormann on Monday defended his climate record and told AFP that "action on climate change to be effective, requires an ambitious, globally coordinated approach".

The green leaders said Cormann had repeatedly exaggerated or misled the public over Australia's climate performance.

Last year he was on record as describing net-zero emissions by 2050 as "reckless and irresponsible", labelling such targets "extremist".

He has also voted against motions to declare a climate emergency and, as finance minister, approved a fossil gas scheme that could add more than 50 percent to Australia's annual carbon emissions, the leaders said.

Cormann has called Australia's emission trading scheme "economic self-harm which does nothing to help global emissions".

When students in Australia participated in a global strike for climate action, Cormann suggested they "stick to school", and publicly praised a speech by former US president Donald Trump labelling climate activists "prophets of doom".

- 'Effective action' -

"It must be considered highly unlikely that Mr Cormann would play an effective role in advocating for ambitious action in reducing emissions among OECD nations," the letter signatories wrote.

Cormann said that the world needed "an urgent and major international effort" in order to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.

"Should I be chosen as the next Secretary-General, I would engage with all interested stakeholders to progress ambitious and effective action on climate change and to help countries around the world achieve global net zero emissions by 2050," he said.

"The OECD can help identify best practice, market-based, technology and policy solutions, which maximise emissions reduction outcomes in a way that preserves energy affordability and is economically responsible."

Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International, said Cormann had a "terrible record" when it came to climate.

"If OECD countries want to be taken seriously on climate, which their many green statements and commitments imply they do, then they simply cannot select a climate blocker as the next OECD Secretary-General," she said.

Cormann is up against former European Union Trade Commissioner and a former minister in her native Sweden, Cecilia Malmstrom, for the OECD's top job.