It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of climate change and the worsening state of the environment, and to feel despair at the dangerous mess that nations and corporations have made in the ruthless pursuit of capital, growth and cheap power.
As good citizens, we try to reduce our emissions by getting solar panels, limiting air travel or investing money responsibly, but the solutions to these wicked problems are structural and can feel beyond the power of the individual.
Yet in this week’s election, ordinary Australians have the chance to cast a vote that will have enormous consequences for this urgent issue. This is the critical decade for action on climate change. The
Disillusioned voters often resort to the truism that both sides are as bad as each other. But let’s be clear – in this election, the climate and environment policies of the two major parties are very different, even if neither goes far enough.
The Coalition has stuck like a barnacle to its
The Coalition’s emission reduction
Despite spruiking its economic credentials, the Coalition has failed to capitalise on the opportunity to make Australia a renewable energy powerhouse. There is no national energy or transition plan, and progress has been led by the states (of both political stripes). With its wealth of solar and wind resources, Australia should be leading this race, not trying to catch up.
If the Earth is to stay within dangerous global heating limits, no new oil and gas fields or coal-fired power stations can be created, says the International Energy Agency (IEA). Yet during the election, the Coalition has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to emission-intensive fossil fuel industries. The spending on this is far greater than
How does Labor compare? It has an emissions reduction goal of 43 per cent by 2030, which is less than the 45 per cent cut promised ahead of the last election and shows how that electoral loss cruelled the party’s climate ambition. This goal is consistent with 2 degrees of warming globally and is not what climate scientists tell us is needed:
Yet Labor’s emissions target is considerably stronger than that of the Coalition. And it comes with a policy to upgrade Australia’s energy grid to harness the boom in wind and solar farms. Labor will also impose emissions limits on the 215 largest polluting facilities, though the detail is not yet clear. This emphasis on a renewable energy transition is welcome. However, Albanese has offered
The Australian Greens’ and climate independents’ proposed emissions targets are significantly stronger than the Coalition or Labor, and both are consistent with staying within 1. 5 degrees of warming. The Greens would reduce emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2035. Most teal independents are calling for a 60 per cent cut by 2030, except for Allegra Spender, whose policy is 50 per cent.
If climate change garnered only minimal attention during the campaign, the worsening condition of Australia’s natural environment got even less.
Labor’s biggest environmental pledges came last week, with $195 million for the Great Barrier Reef and $225 million for threatened species. The Coalition earlier this year committed $1 billion over 10 years to the reef as well as
The need for strong action on the climate and environment crisis has never been more pressing, and some of the solutions can only be advanced by politicians. Both major parties need to do better.
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