Australia risks seriously damaging its international
reputation and being isolated in the global debate on climate change
unless it rethinks its inaction on greenhouse gases, international
experts have warned.

And a top adviser to the Obama administration on climate
change said Australia could jeopardise its relationship with the United
States if the Abbott government fails to fall into line on climate

''I think everyone except the climate deniers is deeply
concerned with the direction [Australia] is going,'' Heather Zichal, the
White House's chief climate adviser until last November, told Fairfax

Illustration: Matt Golding.
Illustration: Matt Golding.

A new report released ahead of a meeting between President
Barack Obama and Prime Minister Tony Abbott next Friday found
Australia's commitment to addressing climate change had slipped behind
other countries, including China and Indonesia.

''The implication from US policy for Australia is that we
have stepped up to the table with solid solutions to this global
challenge. Is Australia going to join President Obama in making progress
or stand on the sidelines?'' Ms Zichal said.

The concern over Australia's stance came as the leaders of
the Group of Seven major economies expressed their ''strong
determination'' to adopt a global climate treaty that was ''ambitious,
inclusive and reflects changing global circumstances'' at a summit in
Paris next year.

It also coincides with China, the world's biggest emitter,
confirming its intentions to limit emissions for the first time. ''We
will try our utmost to peak as early as possible,'' said Xie Zhenhua,
China's chief climate envoy.

The Obama administration this week announced it would cut
carbon dioxide emissions from the US' power plants by 30 per cent below
2005 levels by 2020 - considered the most significant policy by the US
government since Mr Obama failed to convince Congress to introduce an
emissions trading scheme.

Mr Abbott is planning to repeal Australia's carbon price
scheme and replace it with a capped fund to pay some businesses to cut
emissions. He is also scrapping the $13 billion low-carbon energy
funding agencies, and has commissioned businessman and climate sceptic
Dick Warburton to head a review of the country's 2020 renewable energy

The Prime Minister this week indicated climate change was
unlikely to be on the agenda for the G20 meeting he will host in
Brisbane in November.

The position was supported by the world's largest miner, BHP
Billiton. Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said on Friday: ''If you try
and use [the G20] to solve all the problems of the world, you'll solve
none. It's better to concentrate on a few things and do them really

A new report by consultants Vivid Economics, commissioned by
conservation group WWF, found that Australia was lagging major trading
partners such as the US, China, the European Union and even Indonesia
when it comes to improving energy efficiency and curbing emissions on a
per capita basis.

''Australia's trading partners are shifting to low-carbon
economies, and if we don't take stronger action we could risk our
international reputation and economic competitiveness,'' said Kellie
Caught, head of WWF-Australia's climate change unit. ''To up our game,
Australia should commit to cut carbon pollution by at least 25 per cent
in 2020.''

Environment Minister Greg Hunt would not respond to questions.