By electing Labor, Australia votes for climate action

In Australia’s election, a wave of Greens and independents pushed for strong carbon reduction targets, and the incoming Labor administration will be pressed to speed up its climate plans if it hopes to enact any legislation.

The country’s top polluters in mining, oil and gas, and construction materials will see their carbon emissions gradually restricted, while Labor hopes to increase demand for electric vehicles and accelerate renewable energy development.

The election outcome, with climate change playing such a significant part, marks a significant shift for Australia, which is one of the world’s largest per capita carbon emitters and top coal and gas exporters. It was ignored at last year’s Glasgow climate meeting for failing to meet the high objectives set by other wealthy nations.

In his victory address, new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declared, “Together, we can stop the climate conflicts.” “By working together, we can maximize Australia’s potential as a renewable energy giant.”

Albanese has stated that Labor will keep its objective of reducing carbon emissions by 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, which is already far higher than the departing conservative government’s Paris target of up to 28 percent.

With ballots still being tabulated, Labor is still short of a majority in the lower chamber of parliament, and might rely on cross-bench support. Even if it wins an overall majority, it will almost certainly have to cooperate with the Greens in the Senate to pass legislation, including the 2030 carbon target.

“Now the struggle will be over short-term ambition, enacting a plan so it’s out of any single government’s hands, and putting a halt to new fossil fuel mining,” said Richie Merzian, climate and energy director at the Australia Institute think tank.

The Greens seek to reach net zero by 2035 rather than 2050, cease the construction of new coal and gas infrastructure, and phase out coal-fired power by 2030.

Labor will also under pressure from a small group of climate-focused independents who want to cut emissions by half by 2030.

Scott Morrison, the defeated Prime Minister, famously taunted Labor in parliament by waving a lump of coal and stating, “Don’t be terrified.”

Since then, Labor has eliminated or reduced proposals that might harm coal and gas workers, recognizing its setback in 2019 when it lost seats in coal and gas-dependent regions.

A top Labor lawmaker praised the gas business two days before the election for constructing mega-projects that produce large exports, which are expected to total A$70 billion ($50 billion) this year.

Madeleine King, Labor’s shadow minister for resources, told a petroleum conference, “I want to be clear how enthusiastic I am, but also how enthusiastic Labor is for this industry, because we know that it provides jobs and livelihoods.”

Labor’s core climate policies include tax cuts for electric vehicles, A$20 billion in low-cost financing for new renewable energy transmission projects, and tightening the country’s emissions “safeguard mechanism.”

This method establishes a cap on emissions for the 215 major mining, energy, and materials industries that generate more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year.

Companies are waiting for further specifics on the plan, which calls for lowering baselines to reach net zero by 2050, but they are unconcerned.

“It’s probably not going to seem very different from promises we’ve previously made at a big-picture level,” Meg O’Neill, CEO of gas producer Woodside Petroleum, told reporters this week.

With the soaring cost of materials used in power lines, solar and wind farms, Labor’s ambition to attain 82 percent renewable energy by 2030 may be hampered. Power prices are expected to rise at the same time, owing to rising global coal and gas prices.

“The next couple of years look dreadful for energy users,” said Tennant Reed, climate and energy policy leader of the Australian Industry Group.

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