It was shocking for me to see mainstream politicians omitting to ambitious climate mitigation targets, even though I was visiting Germany from Australia for the first time in four year.
Months before I first emigrated from Australia in 2009, I had fled my house in the hills as the devastating Black Saturday fires killed more than 100 people across the next valley. These extreme weather events have only gotten worse over the past decade.
Australia is the nation with the driest continent. most vulnerableto climate change. Submerged East Coast towns Floods in March and April that are once-in-a million happen only once in a millennium. Nearly 90% of the Great Barrier Reef was affected by another heat stress-related mass bleaching event.
Polls show that most Australians want government to take action to mitigate worsening climate impacts. These demands have not been incorporated in the debates before the election.
So why are Australian legislators silent on climate issues?
One, Australia is the second-largest exporter of coal in the world, and the third-dirtiest fossil fuel. It might be dying, but there is new renewable energy. Half the price of coal or gas power in Europe. But the country’s all-powerful mining lobby continues to work to limit emission reductions and an exit from fossil fuels.
As the country burns and waterfront mansions wash into the sea, neither the ruling coalition government comprising the conservative Liberal Party and National Party nor the opposition Labor Party want to threaten mining jobs, especially in key marginal seats that could decide the election.
While a market-driven energy transition is happening at home renewables provided five times more power than gas in 2021 action to limit global heating has been a political poisoned chalice, and an issue that collapsed successive governments during the so-called climate wars.
Climate wars derail action
A decade ago, myself and my climate-conscious friends rejoiced when the governing Labor Party instituted a Carbon pricing system and a Super Tax on profits from the mining industry
Such rare ambition was not immediately possible. rolled back when the Liberal Party’s Tony, arch climate sceptic Abbott,Elected prime minister2013
Now led by Liberal leader Scott Morrison the man who infamously cuddled with a chunk of coal in parliament the ruling coalition has become a global climate pariah. Australia ranks last in the world in terms of its level of climate action.
So, I wasn’t surprised to watch Morrison in 2019 hail approval for the mammoth Adani coal mine which could pump out the Equivalent to 8 years of Australia’s entire greenhouse gas emissions before wildfires torched over 24 million hectares (60 million acres) across southeast Australia.
Although the coalition finally committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 at the UN Climate Conference in November, it did it kicking and screaming. It was the last OECD member to sign the pledge, which heavily relies on carbon credits. Opposition to actual emission reductions.
Main challenger ducks climate commitment
Even Labor’s center-left, which is expected to win the election in November, is not willing to accept a climate change free of charge. Their emissions reduction targets fall well short of what’s required to meet the Paris climate goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) of warming.
And Labor has said no Australian coal power plants will be closed any time soon. “While people want our coal, they’ll buy it from us,” said a Labor candidate.
The shadow of losing a supposedly unlosable election in 2019 after fighting on a strong climate platform still looms large.
Voters could end climate wars
This election is important for the majority Australians who want more Climate ambition.
For younger voters who fear worsening extreme weather, there is some hope in the form of an emerging group of Independent climate-conscious candidatesThe “teals” are also known. Most of them women, they are tipped to take several coalition seats in the big cities due in part to frustration over climate inaction.
The teals are often supported by pro-climate billionaire Simon Holmes a Court. His Climate 200 group wants a parliament that “climate science denial” and vested interests “delay meaningful action against climate change.”
The election will be close. If the independents manage to hold the balance of power, they could force the ruling party to change its position on climate. Some are promising a bold 60% emission cut and an 80% renewable energy target by 2030.
Labor, at the very least, matches the teals on renewables even if it wants to export coal indefinitely.
Australians have some of the highest per person carbon emissions on Earth, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls their government a last “hold out” on climate action. It’s high time that voters stood up for their children and the future of the planet on May 21st.
Edited by Jennifer Collins