Ex-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s abrupt resignation after an intra-party clash over climate and energy policy is an example of a “potent political issue” that is roiling “a handful of countries with powerful fossil fuel lobbies”, including Canada and the United States, the New York Times suggested last week.
“In Australia, the world’s largest exporter of coal, climate and energy policy have infused politics for a decade, helping to bring down both liberal and conservative lawmakers,” the Times writes. And that history “could be a bellwether for next year’s Canadian elections, expected in October, in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a powerful challenge from politicians aligned with the country’s oil industry.”
The article by Times reporter Somini Sengupta also points to “striking” parallels between Australia and the U.S., where “the Trump administration has promised to revive the coal industry, rolled back fuel emissions standards, and announced the country’s exit from the Paris pact altogether.” While climate change “is not a driving issue” in U.S. mid-term elections this fall, it’s the third-most important concern for liberal Democrats, after health care and gun control.
The other parallel between the two countries is sub-national action in response to climate-denying national governments.
“Australia is a lot like the U.S.,” said Robert C. Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, and special advisor on climate change to the United Nations secretary general. “Climate policy has really been driven from below, from the state, local, and business level. That is not going to change.”
That reality places Australia among several G20 countries that are falling short of their commitments under the Paris Agreement, the Times notes. “If all other countries were to follow Australia’s current policy settings, warming could reach over 3.0°C and up to 4.0°C,” Climate Action Tracker recently reported.
One thing that has changed in Australia is the public face of the government, after newly-installed PM Scott Morrison split the energy and climate ministry and named a leading anti-wind campaigner, Angus Taylor, as energy minister. The new environment minister, Melissa Price, is a former mining company lawyer, RenewEconomy reports.
In a detailed analysis two days after Morrison’s appointments, Editor Giles Parkinson questions how far Taylor will get in trying to quell the country’s renewable energy and energy storage revolution “when he sits with the experts in the electricity industry— those who know that developing new coal power is a suggestion of such momentous stupidity; who insist…that the energy market needs to take emissions into account.”