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19 April 2015

Call for Pyne's resignation over $4 million funding to climate contrarian

Revelations that the Federal Government allocated $4 million in funding to climate contrarian Dr Bjorn Limborg for a "consensus centre" has sparked calls for Education Minister Christopher Pyne's resignation.

The government would cover roughly a third of the cost for an Australian iteration of Dr Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Centre at the University of Western Australia (UWA), confirmed Mr Pyne's office following an investigation.

The news comes on the heels of the Danish economist's move to the UWA's school of business and his appointed as Prime Minister Tony Abbott's advisors on foreign aid.

Labor and environmental activists heavily criticised the appointment, questioning why someone who played down the effects of global warming should be advising on policy concerning developing countries in the Pacific that were exceptionally vulnerable to climate change.

Sources told The Guardian that the consensus centre came as a surprise to senior staff at the UWA's business school who were only told shortly before it was announced.

The UWA made no mention the $4 million in government funding when it publicly announced the establishment of Dr Lomborg's centre earlier this month.

Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said the funding was offered specifically for the centre following discussions between Dr Lomborg and Mr Pyne as well as conversations between the minister and the Vice Chancellor over six to seven months.

"The new centre will focus on applying an economic lens to proposals to achieve good for Australia, the region and the world," said a statement from UWA.

One of three projects the consensus centre will undertake will focus on setting global priorities for development and aid to "produce the most good for every development dollar spent," the statement read.

National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Rea called for Minister Pyne's resignation over the funding revelations, questioning how the government could spare $4 million while attempting to gouge funding to higher education.

"The money has been found despite the government's plans to cut university funding by billions of dollars, including funding for higher degree research students," Ms Rea said.

Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change Mark Butler accused the Abbott government of funding research that would support the government's weak stance on combating climate change.

"Tony Abbott is using scarce public funds to help legitimise his climate scepticism and attack on renewable energy," Mr Butler said.