In February this year, when signs of a Liberal Party leadership spill were first emerging, we asked the question: “What would Malcolm do.”
Seven months later, we are about to find out. Australia’s coal-loving, climate denying Prime Minister Tony Abbott will today be replaced by the leather jacket-wearing, small “l” Liberal, one-time ETS-supporting Malcolm Turnbull.
But doubt is already emerging over whether Turnbull will bring his progressive views on climate change and the low-carbon economy with him to the top job. The following is a round-up of some of the reactions to the new Coalition PM…
“The rumour is he’s sold out on climate change, which I personally think is the largest policy challenge – moral challenge, economic, political and social challenge – of this century,” said economist and former Liberal Party leader, John Hewson, reacting to the coup live on ABC’s Q&A program last night.
“For climate advocates PM Turnbull is a ‘Nixon to China’ moment,” said RenewEconomy commentator, Paul Gilding. “We will never get on track as a country on this issue without genuine bipartisan support – and because of the way Rudd and Abbott made this a Left/Right issue, only the Liberal Party shifting can deliver the change we need.
“That’s why Turnbull’s arrival as PM is a game changer for Australia’s approach, but the impact will be medium to long term rather than sudden policy shifts. While Abbott had to say he supported action on climate policy, everyone knew he was faking it because the politics demanded he do so.
“Turnbull actually supports climate action and has long understood the economic implications of the transition required. And rather than being fearful of those implications he embraces them – seeing the inherent opportunity in a transition away from coal and towards a technology driven transformation of the energy system. The influence of this over time, on the business community and on public attitudes will be long lasting and leave a legacy for a generation.”
“Neither major party in Australia currently has a clear plan for decarbonisation, this political moment offers an opportunity for a fresh bipartisan approach to climate policy but it can’t be one with piecemeal measures,” said Climate Institute CEO John Connor in a statement.
“Australian climate, clean energy and carbon policy discussions have been caught in deep division for too long and it is important to understand that in 2015 those divisions aren’t as deep in the broader Australian community.
“As the developed country most exposed to climate impacts, it is in Australia’s interests to take effective action that transforms our pollution intensive economy to one that harnesses our abundant opportunities in renewables and climate solutions.”
“Tony Abbott’s dangerously low targets were widely criticised internationally and do not do enough to protect Australia, especially the young and most marginalised, from dangerous global warming. It’s incredibly disappointing to see Malcolm Turnbull recommitting to these targets in his first press conference as Prime Minister,” said Australian Youth Climate Coalition spokesman, Dan Spencer.
“Abbott’s attacks on renewable energy and cheerleading for the polluting coal industry put him out of step with the public, the world and climate science – Malcolm Turnbull must not make the same mistake.
“Prime Minister Turnbull talked up the need for Australia to innovate, but to do that we need to take strong action on global warming and embrace the opportunities of renewable energy and the clean economy.”
“Front and centre will be the issue of global warming,” said Greens leader Richard di Natale on ABC 24 on Tuesday. “The big challenge for Malcolm Turnbull is that there are so many people in that party who are stuck in the last century, who deny climate change is an issue. …But that is what leadership is all about. He has to be able to drag his party to the 21st century. …Let’s do those things that are really critical.
“You can’t be taken seriously on the economy, unless you’ve got a serious plan to tackle global warming, it is as much an economic issue as an environmental one.”
“Irrespective of Australia’s absolute environmental obligation to decarbonise the economy, the Liberal Government has two tremendous opportunities staring them in the face,” said Nathan Dunn, managing director for Asia Pacific at US-based solar technology giant, Enphase Energy. “The first is to reaffirm that Climate Change is not a… joking matter. The second is one of huge economic importance to Australia.
“The solar industry’s message to Malcolm Turnbull is, don’t let it be the legacy of the Liberal Party — that they turned Australia’s back on the most significant economic growth opportunity of our time whilst clinging desperately onto a dying resource. Solar and storage technology companies are innovating hand over fist and will continue to drive down costs at an extraordinary pace. Love or hate renewable energy – but don’t attempt to compete with it.”
“We have always said that if we cannot change the Government’s policy, then we need to change the leader,” said the CEO of the Australian Solar Council, John Grimes. “The key question is this – will a Turnbull Government implement a strong positive solar policy? We are now seeking an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Turnbull, to determine where the new government stands on solar policy.”
“Yingli Green Energy Australia is optimistic that the introduction of Mr Turnbull as Prime Minister will create some immediate positive impact for the renewable energy sector within Australia,” said Daman Cole, Managing Director for Yingli Green Energy in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
“The solar and renewable energy industry is one of the most exciting and diverse high growth sectors in the world. To ensure the solar industry remains viable for all Australians and the economy, we hope Mr Turnbull will deliver stronger leadership, policy certainty and investment confidence to ensure that the solar industry in Australia is sustainable for the future, and well positioned to regain its status as a world leader.”
“Under Tony Abbott’s leadership the Coalition Government did its best to destroy Australian solar. We need to be sure that Mr Turnbull doesn’t follow with the same old-hat harmful and destructive policies his predecessor was so keen to pursue,” said Solar Citizens spokesperson Claire O’Rourke.
“With a new leader of the country we’re presented with a fresh opportunity to secure federal government support for the solar future the overwhelming majority of Australians want to see.”