Tony Abbott wants Australia to pull out of the global climate agreement he signed the nation up for.

The former prime minister says Australia should pull out of the Paris Agreement and give up “the emissions obsession that’s at the heart of our power crisis”.

It is a new direction for Mr Abbott, who in 2015 signed Australia on to the treaty, saying at the time he had made a “definite commitment” to a 26 per cent reduction in emissions, and “with the circumstances that we think will apply ... we can go up to 28 per cent”.

Mr Abbott now says that as prime minister, he did not understand “how the aspirational targets we agreed to at Paris would, in different hands, become binding commitments”.

“I didn’t anticipate how agreeing to emissions that were 26 per cent lower in 2030 than in 2005 would subsequently become a linear progression of roughly equal cuts every year over the next decade,” the former prime minister said.

Mr Abbott said the Paris treaty “is driving the national energy guarantee” and withdrawing from it “would be the best way to keep prices down and employment up; and to save our party from a political legacy that could haunt us for the next decade at least”.

“As long as we remain in the Paris agreement – which is about reducing emissions, not building prosperity – all policy touching on emissions will be about their reduction, not our well-being.

“It’s the emissions obsession that’s at the heart of our power crisis and it’s this that has to end for our problems to ease.”

Mr Abbott made the comments while addressing the Australian Environment Foundation – an IPA-linked thinktank that is skeptical on climate change, pro-logging, pro-big business, anti-wind energy, and against the Murray-Darling Basin plan.

He outlined his scientific view that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last century has not triggered “dramatic consequences”.

“Storms are not more severe; droughts are not more prolonged; floods are not greater; and fires are not more intense than a century ago – despite hyperventilating reportage and over-the-top claims from Green politicians,” he said.

“Sea levels have hardly risen and temperatures are still below those of the medieval warm period. Over time, temperature change seems to correlate rather more with sun spot activity than with carbon dioxide levels.

“And even if carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring trace gas that’s necessary for life, really is the main climate change villain, Australia’s contribution to mankind’s emissions is scarcely more than 1 per cent.”