CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The French president told Australia's prime minister Wednesday that countries should make their own decisions on how to achieve any binding greenhouse gas reduction targets that emerge from a United Nations climate change conference in Paris next year.
The Australian government has been widely criticized by green groups for repealing in July a two-year-old carbon tax levied on Australia's worst industrial carbon gas polluters aimed at reducing to the nation's greenhouse emissions.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he raised climate change in discussions on Wednesday with President Francois Hollande, the first French head of state to make an official visit to Australia.
Hollande later told reporters after the meeting that "certain opinions differ" on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia's region.
Hollande said he wanted a global agreement reached at the Paris conference in September on binding targets to reduce countries' emissions.
"What is important is our objective and then each country can organize itself to decide how it's going to tackle it and what is the best way to ensure that we can deal with climate change but not impact on growth," Hollande said through an interpreter.
Abbott said it was "vital' that the Paris conference succeed and did not become "another disaster like Copenhagen," referring to the 2009 climate summit in that Danish city that agreed on only non-binding goals.
"For it to be a success, we can't pursue environmental improvements at the expense of economic progress," Abbott said.
Abbott said Australia would meet its target for reducing its carbon emissions to 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020 with a 2.55 billion Australian dollar ($2.21 billion) fund to pay polluters incentives to reduce their pollution.
Abbott's conservative government is opposed to any price being placed on carbon pollution in Australia.
Abbott failed in his attempt to keep climate change off the agenda of a weekend G-20 summit of leaders of 19 wealthy and emerging economies plus the European Union.
The summit called for a legally binding agreement to be reached in Paris.