SYDNEY, Australia — Minutes after he took the stage to declare victory in Australia’s upcoming election on Saturday, new Labor Party prime minister Anthony Albanese has pledged to transform climate change from a source of political conflict to a generator of economic growth.
“Together we can end the climate wars,” he told his supporters, who were cheering for a few seconds. “Together we can capitalize on Australia’s opportunity to become a renewable energy superpower.”
Upvotes for candidates with this comment and its win outside of the bipartisan system that makes global warming a priority – The probability of a significant change in Australia’s climate policy has suddenly increased.
How far the country will go will depend on the final numbers still being counted. But for voters, advocates, and scientists who spent years in despair, the grip of the fossil fuel industry Saturday’s results represent an extraordinary reversal, according to the conservatives who have ruled Australia for most of the past three decades.
A country known globally climate delayWith minimum 2030 targets to reduce carbon emissions, it has finally cast aside most Australians’ denial and delaying approach to climate change, in surveysThey said they don’t want it anymore.
“This is Australia’s long-awaited climate choice,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist and author from the Australian National University. “It was a defining moment in our country’s history.”
Still, it remains to be seen whether the factors driving this change will be as powerful and convincing as the stabilizing forces so ingrained.
In Australia, as in the United States, it will be difficult to end or change decades of traditional energy habits.
In the last fiscal year alone, Australian federal, state and territory governments have A$11.6 billion ($8.2 billion) subsidy to the coal and other fossil fuel industries.
Another 55.3 billion The Australian dollar ($39 billion) is currently committed to subsidizing gas and oil extraction, coal-fired electricity, coal railways, ports and carbon capture and storage (although most carbon capture projects fail).
In other words, Australia spends more money on supporting companies that are warming the planet than helping people cope with the costs associated with the greenhouse gases they emit.
There has also been a surge in renewable energy investments over the last few years, but nothing on the same scale. And during the campaign, Mr. Albanese’s Labor Party sought to avoid directly tackling this dissonance.
Labor banners that read “Send a miner to Canberra” next to signs for the National Party, part of the outgoing conservative coalition, on Election Day in Singleton, a bustling town in northwest New South Wales where more than 20 percent of its residents work in mining. hanged. , which says “Protect local mining jobs”. Candidates from both parties were optimistic about the mining future of the region.
“As people buy our coal, we will certainly sell it,” said Dan Repacholi, a former miner who won the Labor Party seat.
The coal mining industry is thriving in the region, but so is private investment in renewable resources, particularly hydrogen. “We’re going to have a big boom here as both industries go up and up,” Mr Repacholi said.
During the campaign, Mr. Albanese positioned himself as a “both and” candidate, pledging support for renewable resources as well as new coal mines, largely to retain blue-collar districts like Singleton.
But now it will face a lot of pressure to move faster on climate.
The major blow against the conservative coalition on Saturday included a fundamental surge for the Australian Greens, which may be needed by the Labor Party to form a minority government.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said banning new coal and gas projects would be the party’s top priority in any energy-sharing agreement.
A few newly independent MPs campaigning against demands for Australia to raise its 2030 carbon emissions reduction target to 60 percent below 2005 levels — well beyond Labor’s 43 percent commitment — will also put pressure on Mr Albanese and his opposition.
“Both sides of policy will have to reorient themselves,” said energy policy expert Saul Griffith. advocates of policies This makes it easier for people to power their cars and heat their homes with electricity. “This is a very clear message on climate.”
Like many other experts, Mr Griffith said he was not particularly interested in bold official promises to end coal mining, which he expects will extinguish on its own through economic pressure.
New gas projects pose a bigger problem. A major extraction effort is planned for the gas fields. Beetaloo basin In the Northern Territory, it could generate enough carbon emissions to destroy Australia’s hope of achieving its reduction targets on par with other developed countries.
Climate advocates often hope to start with legislation, such as the bill introduced by Zali Steggall, an independent organization that will set stricter emissions targets and create a framework for working towards those targets through rigorous science and research.
Robyn Eckersley, an expert on climate change policies at the University of Melbourne, warned that Labor, Greens and independents need to “play a long game”. carbon tax backfired This pushed Australian climate policy back almost a decade.
He said that getting stuck on one number or one idea will hinder progress and momentum.
“It’s important to get something in there and build a consensus around it,” said Professor Eckersley. “It is better to have discussions about how to improve than to go back and forth between something and nothing.”
Mr Griffith said Australia has a chance to become a global model for the energy transition required by climate change by leveraging its record-breaking rooftop solar uptake. More than one in four homes in Australia now have solar panels. surpasses all other major economies; they provide electricity over the traditional grid at about one-fifth of its cost.
“Real action on climate needs to be led by society,” said Mr Griffith. He argued that the election results were encouraging because the issue resonated with a wider range of voters.
“A less divisive set of politics comes from the centre,” he said. “This is a middle class uprising and therefore climate action is not partisan.”
Unfortunately, it took a lot of pain to get there. Australia yet to fully heal From the record-breaking wildfires of 2020 followed by two years of great flooding.
The Great Barrier Reef also just had its experience. sixth year bleaching – Disturbingly, the first during a La Niña climate pattern where cold temperatures typically prevent overheating.
Dr. “People no longer need to use their imaginations to understand what climate change is like in this country,” Gergis said. “Australians are experiencing the consequences of inaction.”
Yan Zhuang Contributor reporting from Singleton, Australia.