We may not have Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister, but we still have his climate targets. That should sound the alarm.
Let’s briefly cast our minds back to 2015 when Abbott’s emissions reductions targets were set – it was a time before Australia was alight with unprecedented bushfires, and before the 2021 IPCC report made it clear that this is the critical decade to reduce our emissions.
We’ve known for a long time that we’re heading for disastrous global warming. Now, we’re hurtling towards it and the Government still has its foot on the accelerator instead of the brakes.
Fast forward to 2021, two Prime Ministers later, and here we are, carrying the same emissions target for 2030 to the world stage as if nothing has changed.
No wonder Australia won the COP26 award for Colossal Fossil.
One key thing did change since those targets were set in 2015, and it happened in 2016. Australia got a new Deputy Prime Minister in the form of Barnaby Joyce. Since then, although the member for New England has come and gone from the office and come back again, climate action in this country has stalled. It’s clear to all that the Nationals are writing our climate policy.
For all the moderate liberal MPs who say they’re committed to action on climate change, barely an inch of ground has been gained in the most significant issue of our time. So with the Liberals restrained by the reins held by the Nationals, and with Labor failing to step up with a strong climate target – it’s fallen to Independents and the crossbench to give Australians any real hope of climate progress.
What’s stopping Australia from making any progress on climate policy when the overwhelming majority of people support greater climate action?
It’s not hard to find the answer when Senator Canavan stands in front of a big screen TV that reads “Glasgow: A huge win for coal”.
Or when Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says he will not honour the COP26 agreement, saying “I did not sign it”.
Our Deputy Prime Minister is still spruiking coal in the wake of COP26, with his Nationals Senator calling it a “green light for coal” directly after Australia signed an agreement to “phase down” fossil fuels.
By now, it’s no secret our emissions reductions targets are completely out of step with the rest of developed nations. The UK is at 68% emissions reductions by 2030 and the US is at 50-52%.
We have State emissions reductions commitments – in NSW, that’s 50% by 2030. Compare these with the Coalition’s almost vintage 26-28% target. Really, nationally, we should be aiming for at least 50-60% emissions reductions and what is frustrating is that we have the technology to do it.
Instead, we’re now hearing some backbench MPs talk about a 2035 target. Any talk of 2035 targets is just that – talk, not action – delaying the problem for another five years, making it a more costly and disorderly transition, ensuring Australia will miss out on more opportunities and investment.
Any policy announcements from the Government or the ALP need to embrace these stronger reductions targets by 2030. We know from the IPCC report that this is the critical decade, that we can’t kick the can down the road – and that’s not just because Australians want to protect their way of life. There’s much to gain in this transition.
If our target was at least 45% by 2030, Deloitte modelling shows Australia could unlock $210 billion in investment. Think of all the opportunities we’re just not going to get if our climate policy continues to be dictated by the likes of Barnaby Joyce.
It’s no wonder that ‘Voices of’ groups all over Australia are showing up in force to challenge the status quo. We only need to look at the new wave of climate-concerned Independents contesting the next election to know they mean business.
Many Australians are looking at the climate leadership vacuum and asking themselves; do I want sensible crossbenchers holding the balance of power or do I want Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals to hold that power?
In the era where streaming platforms challenge traditional media, renewables challenge coal and gas, it’s time for the new wave of community backed independents to shake up the political status quo and get things moving.
Zali Steggall is the independent MP for Warringah. Her climate bill is currently before parliament.