Much of Australia’s success in containing the pandemic can be attributed to politicians who let science take the lead. It has proven to be a very effective model. It must be some frustrations for those who are campaigning for stronger responses to climate change. Far from being science-led, the Australian climate debate has been mired in political disputes for many years. It has proven to be a very ineffective model.
That is, until someone finally gets the politics right. The New South Wales government showed the way and passed legislation last week to build 12 gigawatts of clean energy and 2 GW of energy storage in the state over the next decade. NSW Secretary of Energy Matt Kean stated, « What is different this time around is that we have relentlessly focused on delivering cheap energy. It was all about the economy. «
And it worked. Despite some setbacks from opponents within his own party, his federal coalition counterpart, Angus Taylor, and major energy companies, Mr Kean eventually managed to harness the support of his own party, as well as nationals, the Labor opposition, the Greens and most of the rest Crossbencher.
There are lessons to be learned. In Australia, despite the existential threat of climate change, it has been incredibly difficult for those pushing for bigger action to translate a « science-led » argument into a wave of support for an accelerated approach to a low-carbon economy. Too often it has been possible for climate skeptics to block progress by tarnishing the waters of science.
Victoria also took some big strides last week, though wider state support for progressive policies and Labor dominance in the state made sales easier. Energy Secretary Lily D’Ambrosio secured $ 540 million in Victoria’s budget for six renewable energy zones and nearly $ 800 million in energy efficiency programs. This is further proof of the state government’s commitment to achieving its renewable energy target of 50 percent by 2030.
Together, Victoria and NSW are way ahead of the federal government, which – burned by earlier violent internal battles – is still politically crippled in climate policy. This puts Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an awkward position: he is being left behind both nationally and internationally. The UK and US – now that President-elect Joe Biden is about to take command – are showing just how much Mr Morrison is dragging his feet.
And the prime minister isn’t the only one shown by the states. Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese is also pushing for credible climate action, as Joel Fitzgibbon recently departed from the Labor front bench and brought out the rifts within the party.
If there is one thing that the global pandemic has made clear, it is that potential threats can turn into real disasters with huge consequences. The science of climate change clearly shows the latent danger of not acting fast enough to slow the planet’s warming.
Whether people’s experience of the pandemic makes skeptics more accessible to science is unclear. What states have shown, however, is that, despite previous heated debates, big changes are still possible if political leaders make the argument in a way that aims to build support across the political spectrum, rather than the most extreme views appease.
Herald editor Lisa Davies writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the week’s most important stories and topics. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.
Since the Herald’s first publication in 1831, the editors have considered it important to give readers a considered opinion on current issues, always putting the public interest first. Elsewhere we seek to cover a variety of views without endorsing any of them.
Renewable Energies, New South Wales, Matt Kean, Coal
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