Australians go to the polls on Saturday, May 18 next to elect members of the 46th Federal Parliament. This has been dubbed the climate change election with good reason: concern about the climate and environment has never been greater among Australians.
Over the last twenty years, Australian elections have seen on-and-off enthusiasm for parties who promise to tackle climate change. But in the past, the winning party has done very little, fearing that any such measures would negatively impact the Australian economy. The result: voters would give the winning party the “heave ho” in the next election..
A recent Lowy Institute poll found nearly two out of three adults believe climate change is the most serious threat to Australia’s national interests, an 18-point-increase in five years. This result is not surprising: Australia has experienced and continues to experience the effects of climate change at its worst: severe droughts, devastating wild fires, increased heatwaves and mass coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. And Australia is the global leader in mammal extinction, a great risk confirmed the by a landmark UN global assessment that concluded a million species are at risk of extinction with potentially dire consequences for human society.
Australia has a big stake in these issues. It is one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters on a per-capita basis and in the top 20 for total pollution, with a footprint greater than Britain or France.
There are clear choices between the parties on these issues at the May 18 election. Guardian Australia has reviewed how the policies of the Coalition of the Labor and Green Parties line up. The Coalition says that in accord with the Paris Agreement it will cut emissions to 26% less than they were in 2005 by 2030. Even so, the cut is significantly less than what scientists advising the government say is necessary for Australia to play its part in meeting the goals of the Paris agreement (viz a 45%-63% cut by 2030 compared with 2005).
This change of voter attitude in Australia, is also present in the United Kingdom. To quote the Guardian:
“So, could this be the moment when politicians recognise they have both strong intellectual reason to act urgently on the environment as well as, finally, the public backing to do so? When, instead of trying to score marginal partisan points, they believe they have the legitimacy to be non-partisan, politically bold, and to together back transformative economic and social change in pursuit of the public good? Could politics indeed be changing with the climate?”
And where does this leave Canada as we draw near to a fall Federal Election? 4RG will continue to monitor this vital, emerging issue.