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The Australian public desires clean sources of energy, however, the ongoing conflict over climate change persists in this country.
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The Australian public desires clean sources of energy, however, the ongoing conflict over climate change persists in this country.

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The most recent national election took place less than two years ago, but the pace of political changes is swift. Amidst a focus on rising living costs and daily distractions, it can be easy to overlook the significant impact of dissatisfaction with the Coalition’s lack of action and contradictory statements on the climate crisis in the outcome of the election.

Although not the sole contributor, a thorough analysis revealed that it was the primary factor in driving voters towards independent parties instead of the major ones. Additionally, it ranked second in its influence on motivating individuals to switch their vote to the Labor party. It is logical to assume that it played a significant role in the rise of support and number of seats for the Greens.

Based on various data, it is evident that Australians have supported a swift transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy in order to mitigate the effects of climate change. While opinion polls should not be taken as the sole indicator, they do suggest that the general public is more progressive in their views compared to political leaders on this issue.

The fundamentals of conventional climate science are widely acknowledged. Over the span of a little more than one hundred years, Australia’s average temperature has risen by 1.5C, with heatwaves and extreme weather occurrences growing in intensity.

One might assume that this would prompt a change in the overall conversation to center around the widely accepted idea that changes in our lifestyles and work are unavoidable. The main inquiry then becomes how we can implement these changes in a efficient and equitable manner, at the necessary pace.

However, in Australia, the ongoing battle over climate change persists. Despite public opinion, the majority of political and media discussions continue to portray the issue as a secondary concern. Merely professing a commitment to addressing the crisis is deemed acceptable, but implementing policies to support that commitment is met with greater skepticism than taking no action at all. This sends an underlying message that change is not necessary.

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The primary supporter of this perspective is the federal Coalition. They advocate for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, but do not support any policies that would aid in reaching this goal and do not have any of their own proposals. (Their suggestion to create a nuclear energy industry, which is widely believed to be costly and not feasible before 2040, cannot be considered a viable solution. It is merely a delaying tactic.)

The opposing party’s position is not based on sound reasoning, but gains strength whenever their members are given a platform to criticize the government’s climate policies. This is further supported by the party’s group of media supporters, such as radio hosts, Seven West Media, and News Corp publications, which constantly publish articles depicting Labor’s policies as irresponsible and harmful. As a result, the crucial question of whether these policies are capable of achieving the desired change, which is supported by almost everyone in parliament, is often overlooked.

That News Corp is anti-climate action is hardly a blinding insight, but it’s worth raising because it continues to skew the debate. The people it elevates, particularly from fossil fuel lobby groups, get picked up and echoed elsewhere. And the government internalises the framing even while the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, oversees plans for an ambitious clean energy expansion.

For those who tuned in to the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai last December, the most significant conversation about climate change in Australia this year remains unspoken. It has been two months since nearly 200 nations supported a call for the global shift away from reliance on fossil fuels. While it may seem like a simple concept, this had not been agreed upon until now.

According to the Dubai statement, the shift should occur in accordance with the recommendations of scientists, which include taking urgent action during this pivotal decade. While it is not a binding agreement, this deal conveys a significant message to influential institutional investors who oversee trillions of dollars in assets, guiding them towards profitable investments in the future.

Given that Australia is the third largest exporter of fossil fuels globally, one would expect the prime minister and government officials to engage in a meaningful discussion about the implications for the country. However, there has been no indication of such discussions thus far.

The government is actively addressing climate issues within the country, despite not always receiving recognition for it. This includes implementing a program to support renewable energy, finally introducing a standard for vehicle emissions to promote cleaner cars, and creating a net zero authority. Last week, Anthony Albanese hinted at a forthcoming “big idea” announcement that will provide billions in support for emerging green energy industries. The announcement of a 2035 emissions reduction target within the next year will be a crucial indicator of the prime minister’s level of ambition.

The potential positive effects of these steps may be overshadowed if the Labor party approves new gas export projects that could contribute more to global emissions than can be mitigated through domestic cuts. The government is currently working on a “future gas strategy”, but there is no indication that climate concerns will halt any projects.

In comparison to the US, Joe Biden has declared a suspension on all decisions for exporting liquefied natural gas due to its contribution to the climate emergency, which he referred to as “the most critical threat of our era”.

Biden’s decision has a political aspect, as he requires the support of progressive democrats in order to defeat Donald Trump. Some view his language as hypocritical, considering his administration has already authorized a significant expansion of gas exports. However, despite these considerations, there is a clear divide on this matter between Australia and its primary ally.

The stance of Australia remains unchanged when it comes to gas, at least for the time being. It will be intriguing to observe how long this stance can be upheld. As the election draws near, it will also be intriguing to revisit the opinions of voters on this matter.

Source: theguardian.com