Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott: described as "eccentric".

The attitude of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the global
challenges of climate change is "eccentric", "baffling" and "flat
earther", according to a group of senior British Conservatives.

The group, including Prime Minister David Cameron's Minister
for Energy and a former Thatcher Minister and chairman of the
Conservative Party, says Mr Abbot's position on climate change
represents a betrayal of the fundamental ideals of Conservatism and
those of his political heroine, Margaret Thatcher.

In a series of wide-ranging, separate interviews on UK climate change policy with The Age,
they warn that Australia is taking enormous risks investing in coal and
will come under increasing market and political pressure to play its
part in the global battle against climate change.

Pressure predicted: Selwyn Gummer, Lord Deben, believes Tony Abbott has betrayed fundamental tenets of Conservatism.
Pressure predicted: Selwyn Gummer, Lord Deben, believes Tony Abbott has betrayed fundamental tenets of Conservatism. Photo:

Their comments come almost 25 years to the day since former
British prime minister Margaret Thatcher addressed the United Nations to
place climate change on the global environmental agenda. "It is mankind
and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in
damaging and dangerous ways,"  she said


Mr Abbott, as recently as June, insisted he should not be
stereotyped as a conventional traditionalist, declaring he wanted to be a
"reforming conservative" in the mould of Mrs Thatcher.

According to Lord Deben, chairman of the independent Climate
Change Commission and a minister in both the Thatcher and Major
governments,  Australia will come under increasing market pressure to
respond to the global shift toward renewable energy. 

A  former chairman of the British Conservative Party, Lord
Deben said Mr Abbott has betrayed the fundamental tenets of conservatism

 "I have no doubt that people like David Cameron will be
saying to Tony Abbott 'look conservatives are supposed to conserve, they
are supposed to hand on to the next generation something better than
they received themselves'."

Tim Yeo, chairman of the UK's parliamentary select committee
on energy and climate change and a former environment minister under
John Major, likened those who question the existence and the science of
climate change as "the flat earthers of the 16th century". 

"Some of us are very perplexed. I was last in Australia at
the beginning of last year, before the election and had conversations
with people on both sides of the political divide. I was amazed at some
of the views.

 "If I was Australian, I'd be concerned if my country's
economic future and prosperity became dependent on continued coal

The United Kingdom led the world in 2008 by legislating for
long-term, ambitious emissions reductions of 80 per cent by 2050 – and
has already achieved a 25 per cent drop on 1990 levels. In June, David
Cameron opened the world's largest offshore wind farm with 175 turbines
in the Thames Estuary. 

Almost 20 per cent of Britain's electricity is now produced
by renewables, with eight per cent powered by wind – equivalent to about
6.5 million homes. 

The UK's energy market reforms and the drive to transform the
economy to a low carbon model are supported by all the major political

Greg Barker, David Cameron's Minister for Energy and Climate
Change until June this year said: "I think there is a lot of concern
about Australia and yes, perhaps it is disproportionate versus its place
in the global economy. But because of [our] close historical, emotional
and family ties, people are concerned, slightly baffled by the approach
that Australia is taking which looks, actually, slightly eccentric," he

Mr Abbott declined to comment.