Tony Abbott, clearly petrified by the independent campaign against him in his seat of Warringah, has backflipped on his demand that Australia withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Funny about that!

During a debate today between the Warringah challengers – but mostly Abbott and his primary challenger, former Olympian Zali Steggall – the former prime minister confirmed he had changed his mind on the Paris climate agreement, which he previously demanded the country leave.

He told moderator David Speers that he changed his mind because the government no longer had the “climate obsession” it had under Malcolm Turnbull.

I certainly thought that the only way to break the emissions obsession was to pull out of Paris, I think that the government has lost its emissions obsession now that Angus Taylor is the energy minister […] Circumstances have changed. We have a new prime minister and a new energy minister.

When pressed whether he thought they should have pulled out under Turnbull’s policy, Abbott said yes.

“We had an emissions obsession that needed to be broken and changed,” he said. “I am now confident that we can meet our Paris targets without significant damage to our economy.”

What has really changed? Well, Abbott is actually feeling proper pressure now that he is struggling in the polls against Steggall – who reflects an increasingly progressive view within the electorate on renewables and climate change. It’s likely that is swinging him on issues like the Paris agreement.

But he’s obviously not a climate warrior. In the same debate, he bafflingly suggested that the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project should be investing in coal.

“We do need more baseload power in the system,” he said. “Why not coal-fired power? Coal fire remains the cheapest form of baseload power.”

Really forward-thinking stuff, Tony. Look at him: he loves being challenged!

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