UK ministers have reportedly abandoned specific climate change commitments from a trade deal with Australia, which activists say will trigger a “race to the bottom” for green commitments.

Sky News said a leaked email from a senior Cabinet Office official showed how ministers agreed to “withdraw the two climate demands” from the trade deal, including “a reference to temperature targets for the ‘Paris Agreement “in order to” get Australia’s FTA (free trade agreement) on the line “.

It was reported that International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng had agreed to delete specific references to temperature commitments, but that references to the Paris Agreement – a legally binding international treaty aimed at to continue efforts to prevent temperatures from rising more than 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels – would still be mentioned.

Sky reported that Australia, which is the only developed country to have yet to improve its target set in the Paris Agreement in 2015, had demanded that language on temperature commitments be dropped.

Greenpeace said the removal of specific temperature commitments “renders the use of the term Paris Agreement completely unnecessary.”

The organization’s executive director, John Sauven, said: “The UK government is committed to making the environment central to trade, including by supporting the Paris Agreement on climate and zero deforestation in supply chains.

“The signing of an Australian trade deal with the covert removal of climate temperature commitments is the opposite of anything Boris Johnson has publicly promised and is heartbreaking for what the deal stands for.

“It will be a race to the bottom, which will impact cleantech sectors and farmers’ livelihoods.

“There should be a moratorium on trade deals with countries like Australia until they improve on their weak climate targets and end deforestation.

“Right now the public and parliament are being fooled by the Prime Minister into believing this deal is great for Britain when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.”

Boris Johnson wrote to Greenpeace in August pledging that any Australian trade deal “includes a chapter on trade and the environment that not only reaffirms commitments to multilateral environmental agreements, including the Accord. of Paris, but also urges the two parties to collaborate on climate and environmental issues. “.

In a letter seen by the PA news agency, he told the group, as well as other organizations: “We are clear that more trade will not come at the expense of the environment.

But Greenpeace said the abandonment of specific temperature commitments “undermines confidence in the government as the host of the upcoming UN climate summit, Cop26, and reverses all promises made to Parliament and the United Nations. public that trade deals are not a race to the bottom ”. .

A government source told Sky News: “The final text of the deal will contain a commitment to meet all of the Paris climate targets – so it implicitly includes temperature.

“It’s also the first time Australia has included climate provisions in a trade deal – and includes various clauses to tackle emissions and so on.

“There is a chapter dedicated to climate which includes an independent feature article on climate change, where both parties affirm their commitment to tackle climate change, including within the framework of the UNFCCC and Paris and the recognition of the importance of achieving the Paris / UNFCCC goals, by implication, this covers the three main Paris goals. “

Truss said in July that the final trade deal with Australia would be fully drafted by the end of the year.

The deal was concluded in principle earlier this year and will see many tariffs cut between the UK and Australia.

Associated Australian Press