Anthony Albanese, PM of Australia, campaigned on a new act that promised his country would get out of the “naughty corner” on climate change.
Australia has been seen as a laggard for a long time, but its new leader has declared that the country will now slash emissions, become a powerhouse in renewable energy, and force the biggest polluters to clean up their act.
Minutes after he finished his victory speech, Mr. Albanese addressed the reporters and said, “I want to join the global effort.”
Acknowledging and taking action to combat climate change was until recently a highly contentious issue in Australia; in fact, it is infamous for having played a role in the removal of three prime leaders in a span of ten years.
The nation is one of the world’s greatest polluters per head of population, and although having signed a number of global promises, it has not been able to make any meaningful cutbacks to the core emissions that it produces.
On the other hand, Australia is a nation in which the terrible effects of climate change have become readily apparent.
In the so-called “climate election” of 2022, there was an unprecedented surge in support for candidates demanding rapid action. Additionally, the issue was a major part in the downfall of yet another prime minister, Scott Morrison, whose conservative government had been in office for nine years.
At the time, Mr. Albanese stated that “Together we can put an end to the climate wars.”
According to the opinions of various analysts, the victory of his government brought about a dramatic improvement in Australia’s status in the international community almost immediately.
The fact that Australia now had a new leader who appeared to be serious on the issue of climate change was referenced or expressed relief by a number of foreign leaders.
The former Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, whose nation is among those most at risk from rising seas, applauded Australia’s intention to “put the climate first.” Meanwhile, PM of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, expressed excitement of working with Mr. Albanese to make the globe a “better” and “greener” place.
Professor Mark Howden, who serves as vice chair of United Nations body of Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Change (IPCC), has observed a shift in perspective within the scientific community as well as within the business community.
“People were sort of criticizing Australia’s position and wondering why we weren’t doing more,” he says to the media. “I used to get accosted by people at conferences,” he says. “I used to get accosted by people at conferences.”
“These days, they’re very warm and welcoming.”
An increase from 26–28% in the previous objective for reducing emissions has been codified in legislation by the government led by Mr. Albanese. This difference is the same as if Australia’s whole transportation or agricultural industries did not produce any emissions.
It has also negotiated the implementation of a major plank of its plan to reach that objective, which is a “safeguard mechanism” that operates as a carbon cap for the country’s top emitters. This was one of the most difficult aspects of the negotiation process.
According to Climate Council researcher Simon Bradshaw, “[that] was really the first new piece of legislation aimed to actually driving down emissions in Australia for more than a decade,” he tells the reporters.
“We’ve gotten ourselves back into the game.”
The government is also looking into ways to incentivize reductions in emissions on the level of individual consumers, such as through a policy regarding electric vehicles that is still in the process of being developed.
31% of Australians believe the government is doing too little to combat climate change, compared to 44% the year before, when the Morrison government was in power. This indicates a decline in public concern over the activities being taken by the government.
According to the opinions of several experts, there is however “an appropriate level of cynicism” toward Australia and its climate efforts.
Its revised objective for 2030 is not ambitious enough to fulfill the goal of reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees as outlined in Paris Agreement. Experts say they are optimistic that the earth can still be saved by adjustments that are both significant and swift.
Nevertheless, the aim that Australia has set for itself is lower than that of many of its foreign competitors, such as the United States or the United Kingdom.
“We’re not laggards anymore, but neither are we leaders,” Professor Howden explains.
The fact that the government has chosen not to prohibit the development of new coal, oil, and gas projects is the primary source of concern among critics.
The introduction of new projects will represent more than merely a roadblock for the achievement of domestic emission targets. The worldwide repercussions are what are the most troubling, given that Australia is one of the exporters of fossil fuels in world.
According to Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Change (IPCC), new fossil fuel projects are not compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and in reality, the infrastructure that already exists needs to be phased out as quickly as possible.
However, the Australian government has already given the go-ahead to three new coal mine projects, the most recent of which was only a week ago.
According to Dr. Bradshaw, the fact that Australia is continuing to move forward with new fossil fuel projects after announcing the beginning of a new climate era is “extremely reckless” and “no doubt confusing” to people in other parts of the world.
“There are questions being asked by our international peers, as they should be,” he says. “It is important that these questions be asked.”
“There is no room for debate in this area of research… Because of this, we are compelled to forego the use of fossil fuels. Every new endeavor that is undertaken and every tonne of carbon that we emit brings the impending catastrophe that much closer.
According to the opinions of several experts, there are still a great many more things that the government is able to and should do in order to reduce its emissions.
Topping the list of these demands is the imposition of an all-encompassing tax on emissions of greenhouse gases, similar to the ones that are already in place in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Scandinavia.
According to Professor Howden, “almost every single economist across the globe would say that [that] is the best and most efficient way of reducing emissions.”
“In an ideal world, that is what we would do next,” he adds, referring to a carbon tax controversy that played a significant role in the removal of former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard from office in 2013. “But we’re living in a world where politics has made that a toxic ground to occupy,” he says, pointing to the fact that we are currently living in a world where politics has done so.
A price on carbon is not included in the official climate policy of the government, and in the past, Mr. Albanese has argued that such a step wouldn’t be necessary anymore because to the decreased cost of renewable energy.
However, according to the opinions of the experts, there is still opportunity for development in that area.
In addition to being one of the windiest and sunniest places on Earth, Australia is surrounded on all sides by water that has the potential to be harnessed for hydroelectric power. However, as of right now, only approximately thirty percent of Australia’s power comes from renewable sources. This is a substantially lower percentage than the United Kingdom, for example, which is significantly less endowed with natural resources.
The government of Australia has set an ambitious target of increasing that number to 82% by the end of this decade. It is anticipated it will lead to reduction in emissions while also providing Australia with the ability to replace exports of fossil fuels.
Others, such as Dr. Bradshaw and the Green party, are of the opinion that urgent changes need to be made to Australia’s environmental regulations so that they take into account the effects these developments will have on the climate. They base their argument on recent mine approvals.
According to numbers released by the government, the country’s emissions have decreased by around 21% in comparison to the benchmark it established in 2005. The year 2030 is now only seven years away.
But the primary reason for this is that fewer trees are being cut down, which are important for the sequestration and storage of carbon. According to the opinions of several experts, this frequently conceals the actual emission trends.
In point of fact, the country’s total gross emissions have changed very little; they have decreased by only 1.5%.
“Despite the fact that we’ve missed out on a lot of years, we’re really just getting started on this trip… it does take some time to turn the ship around.” We are able to achieve those goals… “However, it does mean achieving a great deal at an earlier stage in this decade,” Dr. Bradshaw explains.