Pro-climate campaigners win power in Australia - GulfToday

Pro-climate campaigners win power in Australia


Anthony Albanese. File

If there is one unique thing about the Australian elections which just concluded, it is that there was a groundswell of support for candidates campaigning for more climate action. New Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has made that his key platform: he has vowed to make a make a big shift in energy policy and “end climate wars”.

“We have an opportunity now to end the climate wars in Australia,” Albanese told BBC News shortly after his electoral victory.

“Australian businesses know that good action on climate change is good for jobs and good for our economy, and I want to join the global effort.”

If there is one thing that felled the Scott Morrison government in the polls, it was inaction on climate change. After the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, the Scott Morrison government government was accused by scientists of being “wilfully negligent when it comes to climate,” and of failing to protect biodiversity.

The prime minister-elect has also promised to adopt more ambitious emission targets, though he has so far refused to phase out coal use. Labour has set a target of cutting greenhouse gases by 43 per cent by 2030, which business groups support, but environmentalists say it should be nearer 60 to 75 per cent. After taking oath on Monday, Albanese flew to Tokyo to attend the Quad summit with leaders of Japan, India and the US. He was expected to outline his government’s goals on the climate crisis in the summit.

Professional women and voters concerned about climate change unleashed a third force in Australia’s election, taking a swath of seats that ended nine years of conservative rule even as votes for the winning Labor Party fell.

Women who left successful careers in business, medicine and media to enter politics as independents were on track to win five seats from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal party in its affluent urban heartland in the general election, as moderate voters abandoned the government. Personifying the disruptive change were centrists, mostly women, dubbed “teal” candidates because of teal-coloured marketing material used in their campaign. These candidates were reportedly backed by Climate 200, which raised about $12 million from more than 11,000 donors.

The election showed women’s anger at Morrison and at inaction on climate change, underpinned by “a fierce desire to get accountability back into Australian politics”, said Chris Wallace, a professor at the University of Canberra.

“There was a large overlap between women outraged by the government and voters overall who wanted action on climate policy,” she said.

Climate change struck the biggest chord with voters. Highly educated voters were also angry at the government on integrity issues, including the handling of gender and sexual assault claims in parliament that would not have been tolerated in most Australian workplaces, he said.

While Australia considers climate change a hot-button issue and is keen to crack down on it, the Biden government has been forced by circumstances to change its stance on the matter. As a candidate, Joe Biden made climate change a pillar of his campaign for the White House, promising to decarbonise the US economy, end drilling on public lands, and lead the world in a historic shift away from fossil fuels. But more than a year into his presidency, Biden has instead been forced by rampant inflation and a war in Europe to prioritise energy security, leading his administration to unleash record amounts of crude oil from strategic reserves and to urge drillers to pump harder to keep up with demand.

The jarring shift in Biden’s energy policy priorities reflects the difficulties any US administration might face in attempting a sweeping, decades-long reform of the country’s massive energy economy to curb global warming while assisting geopolitical allies and keeping consumer prices in check.

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