Australia voted on May 21st, 2022 to elect the members of the 47th Parliament – a vote considered a victory on tighter climate action. The nation had climate change at heart when deciding on the elections, as the Labor party, which promised to do more to tackle climate change, won the most seats overall.
However, it still remains unclear whether they can form a majority on their own. The Greens – the party considered to have the most aggressive climate change actions on the agenda, also showed their best result ever.
According to the Greens leader Adam Bandt, the results are a “greenslide” and said that the people of Australia have “delivered a mandate for action on climate”.
The Liberal-National coalition of center-right parties headed by Scott Morrison has been in favor of the coal and fossil fuels economy since 2013 when they came into power, dragging its feet on climate policy.
The government’s target of a 26 to 28% cut of emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 is one of the lowest among developed nations. The country still relies on fossil fuels to generate 91% of its electricity and makes about $71 billion (AUD $100 billion) a year from exporting coal.
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The Liberal-National Coalition has actively tried to delay coal plant closures even when they are no longer economically viable. Former prime minister Scott Morrison was also reported to have brought a lump of coal to parliament, announcing: “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you.”
He also was recorded to have taken a vacation during Australia’s worst wildfires on record in 2019, partly caused by climate change, claiming “I don’t hold a hose”.
The Labor party, led by Anthony Albanese, on the other hand, has proposed rolling out more investment and a push on climate change mitigation actions.
The party has a 2030 target of a 43% cut in emissions, even though environmentalists support a 60 to 75% reduction goal. The Australian Greens have an even more ambitious target for a 2030 emissions reduction – 75% which is backed by several independents.
Part of Labor’s climate change policy is a $20 billion government intervention in solar and battery infrastructure and fast-tracking upgrades to the national electricity grid to accommodate the influx of renewable energy.
The policy also includes making electric vehicles cheaper and increasing investments in green hydrogen and green steel. The former party in power Liberal-National Coalition has been supporting fossil fuel development and relying on technologies like carbon capture utilization and storage for the decarbonization of the industry.
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For comparison, the Greens count on a rapid transition to renewable energy generation to fight climate change and vow to support an immediate halt to new coal, oil and gas developments. They even proposed 10-year wage subsidies for coal workers leaving the industry to ease the social consequences of a quick phase-out from the fossil fuels industry.
Labor’s push towards a greener economy has attracted voters that are getting more concerned about climate change and its consequences – already felt across the country. Despite having abundant sun and wind, Australia has been slow to adopt renewable energy, however, this now could be about to change. More aggressive climate actions are critical to be coming from governments to address the time-sensitive crisis of global warming.