UK secretly ditches climate pledge in Australia trade deal

Boris Johnson lied to the public over commitments made to the Paris Agreement


In a leaked email seen by Greenpeace UK, three senior ministers, Liz Truss (Secretary of State for International Trade), David Frost (Minister of State for EU Relations) and Kwasi Kwarteng (Secretary of State for Business) are named as agreeing to ditch references to the temperature commitments in the Paris Agreement on climate in order to get the Australian trade deal “over the line”. This renders using the term Paris Agreement utterly useless.

Just last month the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, wrote to Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs reaffirming that any trade deal with Australia would, “include a chapter on trade and environment which not only reaffirms commitments to multilateral environmental agreements, including the Paris Agreement but also commits both parties to collaborate on climate and environmental issues. We are clear that more trade will not come at the expense of the environment.”

Details from the leaked email demonstrate that what Boris Johnson wrote in that letter was a lie. The reality of the government’s plans to bulldoze over the Paris Agreement temperature commitments, which aims to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°, completely undermines trust in the government as host of the upcoming UN climate summit, COP26, and undoes all the promises made to parliament and the public that trade deals would not be a race to the bottom.

The Australian government is a climate and environmental laggard that is holding up global action to deal with the climate emergency. It is the only developed country that has failed to improve its very weak 2015 Paris climate target (a cut of 26%-28% by 2030) as it is required to do under the agreement. This comes nowhere close to halving emissions by 2030 that climate scientists say is required to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement alive.

More than half of Australia’s power still comes from coal. It still remains the second largest coal exporter in the world after Indonesia. Australia is also the only developed country on the list of deforestation hotspots – with pastures for beef cattle the main driver of forest destruction.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK said:

“The UK government pledged to embed the environment at the very heart of trade, including supporting the Paris Agreement on climate and zero deforestation in supply chains. Signing an Australian trade deal with action on climate temperature commitments secretly removed is the polar opposite of everything Boris Johnson publicly pledged and rips the heart out of what the agreement stands for.

“It will be a race to the bottom, impacting on clean tech 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. At the moment the public and parliament are being duped by the Prime Minister into thinking this deal is great for Britain when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

“What’s also clear is that the government’s promise of public consultation and updates on the progress of the negotiations are completely inadequate. It’s time parliament demanded proper scrutiny for trade deals.”

The UK Government caving in to Australia over the climate just adds to a list of issues over this trade deal particularly when it comes to food and farming.

Australia still uses hormone growth promoters banned in the UK in 1998. It continues to use 20 pesticides no longer in use here, including highly toxic neonicotinoids, which are extremely harmful to bees and other pollinators. And on animal welfare Australia uses battery cages for hens that were banned in the UK in 2012, and female pigs confined to crates that were banned in the UK in 1999.

No food should be imported using methods that are banned in the UK. Trade and investment needs to focus on how it contributes to a healthy environment and a sustainable economy.


Contact: Greenpeace UK Press Office – or 020 7865 8255.

Notes to editor:

The letter from Boris Johnson to Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs is available upon request.

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