Last week, we looked at the direction in which the world is moving on climate change policy. This week, as we await confirmation on when we’ll be heading to the polls, it’s time to take a look at how climate change policy is playing out at home in Australia.
First up, we’re investigating the Liberal National coalition’s proposal for reducing emissions and securing our energy future.
What’s really changed here?
Australia’s current federal government has been heavily criticised for its climate policy, not least because it represents one of the weakest climate policies of a developed nation on a global scale. And despite considerable local, national and international pressure, it has barely changed from the policy they (the Liberal National Party Coalition) brought to the 2019 election.
The emissions reduction component of the Coalition’s policy, also signed into effect as Australia’s contribution to the landmark Paris accord at COP 21, is a 26 – 28% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030. Not only is this considered grossly inadequate for such a heavily polluting nation, the target remains far below what most Australian states and territories have already legislated, with most aiming for at least a 50% reduction by 2030.
Keep in mind:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison did attempt to update the government’s formal target for emissions reduction, in line with newer energy department projections for a 30 – 35% reduction on 2005 levels. However this attempt was blocked by the National Party within the coalition government.
Recent analysis also demonstrates that most of these projected reductions are being driven by states and territories, rather than federally mandated climate action. And these actions have been assisted by shifts in international markets in alignment with the Paris Agreement.
Some commentators argue that the Coalition only officially committed to the net zero by 2050 goal after they were dragged, kicking and screaming to Glasgow (COP 27). However, because the goal has not been accompanied by any increase in emissions reduction targets, the commitment has been universally criticised as little more than government greenwashing. Indeed a number of scientists have accused the government of grossly misrepresenting data, by overestimating the carbon storage capacity of soil and trees.
Noticeably, the 2022 policy also lacks a mandate on the phase-out or even phase-down of fossil fuel projects, despite this being a key policy pillar in international circles. And perhaps quixotically, the Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor has expressed his broad support for Australia’s ongoing relationship with coal, a position completely out of alignment with global best practice.
The world is changing
In a post COVID world, where the government has claimed to follow expert advice in creating policy that protects the nation, it is worth keeping in mind that since the 2019 election:
- The east coast of Australia suffered through the devastating 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, which scientists attributed to a hotter and drier climate.
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the 6th Assessment Report by Working Group 11 Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability detailing the unprecedented changes to our climate over thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years and warned that only rapid and widespread emissions reduction in this next decade could help mitigate these changes.
- The global agenda setting policy event of COP 26 called on all countries to rapidly increase their emissions reduction ambitions, in line with the newest climate projections.
Yet despite all these profound, global events, the Coalition’s climate policy remains largely unchanged since the last election.
Many of Australia’s traditional trading partners are recognising the importance of their environmental impact, and responding to our changing world. Those nations appear to be more aware that developing smarter strategies for climate is of paramount importance to the welfare of their people.
Ahead of campaign announcements and on performance so far, the coalition’s climate policy does not compare well but importantly, it will be the people of Australia who determine if the current approach needs alternative leadership.
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