Australia’s former conservative Liberal-National prime minister John Howard has cast doubt on the possibility of a global climate change agreement.
At the same time he has admitted he only backed emissions trading before the 2007 election because he faced a “perfect storm” on the issue.
Former Thatcher minister Lord Nigel Lawson, who is sceptical about the impact of rising temperatures, established the foundation.
“I’ve always been agnostic about climate change,” Mr Howard said in London before his address.
“I don’t completely dismiss the more dire warnings but I instinctively feel that some of the claims are exaggerated.
Mr Howard said he’d grown up being told ulcers were caused by stress but it was later revealed a virus was to blame.
“You can never be absolutely certain that all the science is in.”
Before the 2007 federal election Mr Howard pledged a re-elected conservative government would introduce an emissions trading scheme (ETS).
AAP reports he now says that was because by late 2006 his government hit a “perfect storm” with on-going drought, severe water restrictions, bushfires and the release of the (Lord Nicholas) Stern Review and Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth.
Regardless, Labor, led by Kevin Rudd, won the 2007 poll.
Mr Howard says that was partly because the party had even “more fashionable” views on climate change.
However, six years on, Australia’s second-longest serving prime minister insists the high tide of public support for “over-zealous action” on global warming has passed.
Mr Howard added that in his view there was no real prospect of a deal between the major emitters Europe, the United States and north Asia.
The former Prime Minister said he believed anti-global warming policies should never stand in the way of economic growth in developing countries.
Most economists believe current Liberal-National Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Direct Action approach to curbing carbon emissions will be more expensive than an ETS.
AAP reports Mr Howard refused to be drawn on his protégée’s policy.
The former Liberal leader was forced to defend his decision to read Lord Lawson’s book An Appeal to Reason twice despite not having picked up any other book on global warming.
Asked if that was unbalanced, the former-PM said he re-read the work as a courtesy after being invited by Lord Lawson to deliver the lecture.
Mr Howard said it was a “counterbalance” to advice previously received from government departments and stressed he’d read “numerous articles” on climate change.
The 74-year-old also used the lecture to argue nuclear power “must be part of the long term response” to global warming.
“It is a very clean source of energy,” Mr Howard added.