Recent opinion polling has confirmed the 2016 federal election will again be a climate change election, and this time, Australians are desperately seeking action.
A Lonergan opinion poll, commissioned by Future Super and published in The Guardian, indicated 47 per cent of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that “climate change and renewable energy will influence the way I vote at this year’s federal election.”
Only 22 per cent disagreed with that statement.
Interestingly, 65 per cent said they were quite worried, very worried or extremely worried about the impact the proposed Adani Carmichael mine in Queensland would have on climate change and the Great Barrier Reef.
Some 44 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that measures to protect the Great Barrier Reef would influence their vote.
All the evidence suggests there will be stark differences between the political parties on climate change policy as we head to another federal election, perhaps as early as July this year.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has disappointed many in refusing to differentiate himself from Tony Abbott on climate change.
“We have effective and responsible climate change policies that are working," he said in Parliament earlier this month. "We are on track to beat and meet our 2020 emission reduction target. Our 2030 target is responsible and in line with that of comparable countries.”
Those “effective and responsible climate change policies” are largely the same ones put in place by the Abbott Government – the Direct Action Emissions Reduction Fund, a reduced Renewable Energy Target and plans to axe the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
The Turnbull Government has, in addition, announced an emissions reduction target for Australia – a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in Australia’s emissions on 2005 levels by 2030. The Government says this represents a 50 to 52 per cent reduction in emissions per capita.
The Australian Government target equates to a 19 to 22 per cent reduction in Australia’s emissions on 2000 levels (rather than 2005 levels). This falls significantly short of the recommendation of the independent Climate Change Authority for a 30 per cent reduction in emissions from 2000 levels by 2025.
Some argue Prime Minister Turnbull will take a much tougher line on climate action once he has won a federal election and has a mandate in his own right, but there is no concrete evidence that this will be the case. Some fear it may be a case of hope triumphing over experience.
Whilst Turnbull has been largely quiet on climate change in his six months as Prime Minister, opposition leader Bill Shorten has indicated climate change will be a key theme of Labor’s election campaign.
“I will never run from the political risks of taking action on climate change because I understand the economic and environmental risks of inaction are far greater," he said in a major speech to the National Press Club earlier this month.
Shorten recommitted to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, net zero pollution by 2050 and “an internationally-linked emissions trading scheme.”
Critics will point out Labor have failed to provide any details on how they will achieve 50 per cent renewables, net zero pollution or strong emissions reduction targets, and that will be a significant test for the party.
Others will say 50 per cent renewables is an insufficient target, given the escalating threat of dangerous climate change.
Modelling undertaken by the University of New South Wales, the Australian Energy Market Operator and others has shown that not only is 100 per cent renewables technically feasible in Australia, but it can also potentially be achieved at a cheaper rate than with a new fossil fuel system.
For Australia’s leading trader in environmental certificates, Greenbank Environmental, this election matters.
Climate change solutions are the heart and soul of Greenbank's business. The company is delivering important projects through the Emissions Reduction Fund and helping millions of Australians to save money on their power bills through the Renewable Energy Target.
Greenbank has deep concerns about land clearing in Queensland, with reports from environment group WWF that land clearing rates in that state tripled between 2009 and 2014.
It is incomprehensible why the Australian and Queensland Governments can’t get together and agree on a plan to end broad-scale land clearing and introduce measures to support revegetation in Queensland.
I feel there is a need for strong renewable energy and energy efficiency targets and policies.
It seems most Australians agree with me and are looking to the political parties to show leadership on climate change.