Australia’s Climate Change Election That Wasn’t

Photo: Dean Lewins, AAP Image via REUTERS

Australia re-elected center-right Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the weekend, who pulled off a “miracle” thanks to a big turnout from his base of older, suburban economic conservatives and of supporters in Queensland, which is the coal-producing, sparsely populated region of the country.  This happened despite the fact that Australia just experienced its hottest summer on record, with major fish die-offs as the country’s rivers run dry, and the Great Barrier Reef, one of the country’s most iconic and popular destinations, is experiencing a record coral bleaching event from which many believe it will never recover.

  • The real killer for the Labor Party was an economic analysis that came out at the beginning of May, in the final days of the campaign, that argued that Labor’s emissions reduction target according could wipe $264 billion from the Australian economy and kill-off 167,000 jobs.
  • The Labor candidate, Bill Shorten, had ducked questions for weeks around the cost of his climate change policy, which set a reduction target of 45% of greenhouse gasses, but he was unwilling to estimate it.
  • According to the Times, election observers believed that Australian populism fueled the victory, and the “weakening of the major parties and the country’s tilt to the right have been driven mainly by class envy and alienation, including the belief that the elite do not understand the needs and values of the working class.”

Why This Matters: Australian voters rejected the Labor Party’s climate change policies, despite some big wins casting out some high profile climate deniers from their legislature.  The New York Times reported that the incumbent Prime Minister was returned to office despite the fact that he has “long resisted plans to sharply cut down on carbon emissions and coal.”  So Australia, much like the Trump Administration, will pursue policies that in fact prop up mining in Australia, particularly the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, which would be among the largest in the world if it is approved.  And this should be seen as a warning for the U.S. and other upcoming elections that climate change as an issue can drive high turnout from those who feel alienated by the movement or by those who believe that fighting climate will result in a loss of jobs. We must reach those voters and try to appeal to them – we can’t write them off.

Up Next

Mending the Arctic Council After Trump Administration’s Climate Denial

The Trump Administration wreaked havoc on the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum that brings together eight nations and six Arctic Indigenous organizations to discuss issues impacting the melting top of the globe.

Why this Matters: With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, it’s especially imperative to have international collaboration on how to navigate the changing realities.

Continue Reading 377 words

Inauguration Countdown–Biden Announces Additional Climate Plans/Staff

We have no time to waste when it comes to getting this virus under control and building our economy back better. Tune in as I announce my American Rescue Plan. — Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 15, 2021 Yesterday, President-elect Joe Biden announced his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which he described as “a two-step […]

Continue Reading 267 words
Even Big Oil Is Re-evaluating Political Donations

Even Big Oil Is Re-evaluating Political Donations

Following the armed insurrection at the United States Capitol building on January 6, several major oil companies have announced that they will be suspending their political giving and reviewing their future giving criteria.

Why This Matters: Fossil fuel money is shunned by most Democrats. But this could mark the end of a long love affair between the fossil fuel industry and the GOP.

Continue Reading 521 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.