Tony Abbott backflips on Paris climate agreement stance

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has changed his tune on the Paris climate agreement, saying he's now OK with Australia remaining in the deal.

Tony Abbott no longer wants Australia to pull out of the Paris climate deal, now that Malcolm Turnbull isn't overseeing the nation's plan to reduce emissions.

The former prime minister told a Warringah candidates panel in Sydney today that he only signed Australia up to the landmark 2015 international agreement because he believed the target to cut emissions could be met "without substantial policy change and without significant additional costs on the economy".

Then after Mr Turnbull ousted him and took over as prime minister, Mr Abbott called for Australia to follow Donald Trump's lead and dump the get out of the agreement.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has changed his tune on the Paris climate agreement.
Source: AAP

Now he's changed his mind.

"I certainly thought a few months ago that the only way to break the emissions obsession was to pull out of Paris," he said.

"I think that the government has lost its emissions obsession now that Angus Taylor is the energy minister so I don't think it is now necessary ... I'm not calling for us to pull out."

When asked what circumstances had changed, Mr Abbott was blunt: "We've got a new prime minister and a new energy minister."

Malcolm Turnbull, who replaced Mr Abbott as prime minister in late 2015, subsequently tweeted that statement was incorrect.

"Today the cheapest form of new dispatchable or baseload energy is renewables plus storage," Mr Turnbull wrote.

Australia's emissions projections versus Paris Agreement targets.
Source: Environment Department

The last straw for agitators against Mr Turnbull's leadership - including Mr Abbott - last August was his national energy guarantee policy, which would have required electricity generators to cut emissions while meeting reliability standards.

Current prime minister Scott Morrison has recently announced a $2 billion extension to Mr Abbott's emission reduction fund - now rebadged as the climate solutions fund - and Commonwealth funding for Mr Turnbull's pet hydro-electricity project Snowy 2.0.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have announced the climate change policy, but environment groups say Tony Abbott is pulling the strings.
Source: AAP

The former prime minister and leading independent candidate for his seat of Warringah have gone toe-to-toe in a fiery debate on key federal election issues including climate change.

Abbott interjected several times while Zali Steggall was speaking on topics such as climate change, transport and immigration during the heated debate at a Tourism and Transport Forum leadership summit in Sydney.

"I think he needs to learn the error of his ways and improve his manners," Ms Steggall told reporters.

Published 8 March 2019 at 11:10am, updated 8 March 2019 at 4:17pm