Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Evidence of the global climate crisis is easy to find. Climate change is a major contributor to catastrophic events like the 2020 Black Summer bushfires and the more recent flood crisis that hampered the Eastern coast of Australia.
We know that phasing out coal and gas and transitioning to renewable energy is an urgent necessity. However, Australia’s major political parties have been slow to act and transition away from these polluting industries.
As we race towards the 2022 Australian election, many of us are wondering about the climate change policies of Australia’s key political parties. So, let’s run you through why climate action is so urgent in 2022, the historical lack of climate action in Australian politics and what you can do to secure a brighter climate future for Australia (and the globe).
Why is climate action so urgent in Australia?
The latest Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made a dire warning for Australia: the scale and severity of the impacts of climate change threaten to overwhelm our ability to adapt in the decades to come.
The report shows that our country is at imminent risk of irreversible coral reef loss, the collapse of forests in southern Australia, loss of alpine species, an increase in severe fire events and more catastrophic weather events.
Even if immediate action is taken to stop warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, our cities and towns will face irreversible changes, including destructive sea-level rise, changed weather patterns (that will impact the productivity of farming) and an increase in deaths associated with extreme heat.
But with the global climate change policies we have in place, the planet is set to experience at least 2.1C warming by 2100 (possibly as high as 3.9C). This means the impacts of climate change are likely to be even more severe and widespread over the next 100 years.
Over the past two years, we’ve had a taste of what could be to come. The devastating 2019-20 Black Summer bushfire season saw more than 42 million acres of bushland burned, while the current 2022 Eastern Australian floods have seen tornado-strength winds, hundreds of homes lost and record-breaking flood levels.
In the IPCC’s own words, the window of opportunity is closing to take action and “secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
What needs to be Australia’s emissions reduction target?
Currently, Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target is 26% to 28% below 2005 levels. The current Government has said it could beat this 2030 target by up to 9%.
But it’s important to highlight that at the 2021 COP26 summit, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison chose not to increase Australia’s 2030 target. Plus, the Australian Government is continuing to take steps in the wrong direction, including:
Allocating $52.9m to gas infrastructure projects a $30m to gas-fired power stations in the 2021-22 Budget.
Not allocating any support for renewable energy and not introducing a policy to support electric vehicles (making us one of the only OECD countries to have no emission standards for cars).
Increasing funding for carbon capture and storage (despite current projects failing to meet their targets), effectively allowing the country to continue relying on fossil fuels rather than transitioning to renewable energy.
In a recent report from the United Nations (which reviewed the progress countries are making towards global sustainability goals), Australia has ranked last on climate change action out of the 170 UN members assessed. Not only are we still heavily reliant on coal-fired power, but Australia continues to be one of the world’s highest carbon emitters per capita.
According to the Climate Action Tracker (an independent analysis of the government's climate action globally), Australia’s current climate policy is woefully inadequate.
CAT has given Australia a highly insufficient rating, meaning our policies aren’t meeting our commitments made as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement of "holding warming well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C."
So, what action do we need to take and what targets should our government be setting? A recent report by the Australian Conservation Foundation highlighted a stack of practical changes we could implement to change the outlook of our country.
The ACF reveals that Australia could half emissions by 2030 (if not reduce by 60%) by:
Phasing out coal energy by 2030
Ensuring electric vehicles make up 85% of all new cars sold and at least half of all new trucks sold by 2030
Ensuring renewable energy is powering at least 95% of the country’s electricity by 2030
Switching to a clean, green economy is possible for Australia by 2030. However, it will take political will and the buy-in of decision-makers to make it happen.
What has historically been the position on climate change in Australian politics?
Let’s look at how Australia’s major political parties have approached the issue of climate change, particularly since the 2015 Paris Agreement came into effect.
Liberal party climate change policies
As we’ve mentioned the Liberal government’s current policy is to meet (and potentially beat) the 2030 Paris target of reducing emissions by 30-35% by 2030.
The Liberal party climate policies are based on “reducing emissions through technology, not taxes”, and are focused on investing in “hydrogen; long-duration energy storage; low emissions steel and aluminium production; carbon capture and storage; and healthy soils.”
In practical terms, the Liberal party is investing $2.5 billion in carbon offset schemes and over $300 million in capture and storage hubs. With a failure to move away from coal power, Australia continues to be the world’s second-largest exporter of thermal coal (and will continue to have one of the most emissions-intensive electricity networks in the world) under Liberal party policy.
Under the Liberal government, Australia was the only developed country to not adjust its 2030 commitment ahead of the COP26 conference.
Labor party climate change policies
As part of their Powering Australia plan, the Labor party have committed to reducing Australia’s emissions by 43% by 2030 (planning to keep Australia on track for net zero by 2050).
This climate action policy will include key steps such as:
Delivering Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy to make it cheaper to buy an EV in Australia
Spending $24 billion on energy policies (such as upgrading the national electricity grid)
Making a $3 billion investment in green metals, clean energy component manufacturing and other fuel switching efforts
Rolling out 85 solar banks across Australia
With clear investment in clean energy and plans to shift away from coal power, the Labor party’s policies and position on climate action are stronger than the current government’s approach and represent a significant step in the right direction.
Greens party climate change policies
The Greens party has one of Australia’s most ambitious targets out of all major political parties: a 75% emissions reduction target by 2030. The party is also working towards net-zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 (or sooner).
This figure comes off the back of research from climate scientists and policymakers that highlight the need for developed countries (like Australia) to do more and have stronger reduction targets. That’s because we have both a historical responsibility for a larger share of carbon pollution and a higher capacity to invest in emissions reduction.
Leading a multilateral emission abatement treaty that recognises the role wealthy, industrialised nations have and continue to play in the climate crisis.
Removing all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and phasing out the extraction, consumption and export of fossil fuels.
Transitioning to a net negative greenhouse gas economy by switching to 100% renewable energy.
National party climate change policies
Taking a similar approach to the Liberal party, the Nationals have agreed to a 2050 net-zero target and are focused on using technology to lower emissions.
As part of their Coalition with the Liberal Party, their policy is based on investing in capturing methane from landfills and storing carbon in forests and soils.
However, the National party has been historically slow and hesitant to agree to meaningful emissions reductions targets and has made it even more difficult for the Liberal party to make progress toward a net-zero economy.
What can you do to push for climate action in Australia?
Australia has a long way to go to pull its weight regarding climate action. However, there are practical steps we can all take to put political pressure on Australia’s major parties, including:
Use your vote: with the 2022 Federal election coming up, now is the time to carefully consider which party’s policies align with the kind of future you want for Australia.
Educate yourself: avoid taking political policies at face value and do your own research to find out what actions each party is planning to take. This recent analysis by ABC News gives a helpful breakdown of what climate action pledges Australia’s major political parties are taking to the 2022 election and how they stack up against each other.
Write letters to MPs: to strengthen the voice for climate action in Australia. It’s worth writing to your local Member of Parliament to voice your concerns and hopes for climate action. The Climate Council has put together a handy guide to writing an effective letter to your local MP.
Use your dollar to make a difference: aside from political action, one of the most powerful ways we can spark collective action is by carefully considering where our money goes. By investing in cleantech and actively avoiding polluting or harmful industries, we can all make a tangible difference in the future of our planet.
Did you know that Bloom Impact Investing makes it easy to use your money for good? By joining our green investment fund, you’ll invest in climate impact projects, cleantech stocks, green bonds and green tech companies making a real impact.
Ready to make a real impact? Download the Bloom app today.
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