SYDNEY – Australians appear to have turned their backs on the fight against climate change with the re-election of the ruling Liberal-National coalition, which advocated for increasing coal mining to reduce energy prices.
The coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, beat all expectations with a victory Morrison himself described as “miraculous” and that was partly fueled by a surge of votes in the mining areas of the state of Queensland, which were receptive to a campaign message that prioritized job creation and the lowering of electricity prices but alarmed environmentalist organizations.
“It is a problem that the major political party that won this election did not put forward substantive climate change policies at the same time the scientific evidence is very clear that only a rapid transition (...) is needed to keep global warming at relatively safe levels,” the Australian Conservation Foundation said in a statement.
While the official results of the elections have yet to be made public, the latest data suggests the Liberal-National alliance could earn 78 seats in the lower house, which would allow it to rule without a need for outside support.
Australia is especially vulnerable to the havoc wreaked by global warming, a phenomenon whose effects are becoming more visible by the day.
Last year was the third-hottest year on record in the history of the country, whose eastern regions are suffering through one of the worst droughts in a century that started last winter. Meanwhile, the northeast saw strong flooding and over a million fish have died in the Murray River due to a lack of oxygen.
Climate change has also ravaged the Great Barrier Reef – a UNESCO World Heritage Site located to the northeast of the country – which in 2016-17 underwent a massive coral bleaching while the fragile ecosystem s also damaged by the agrochemicals that end up in the ocean.
Faced with these challenges, the Liberal-National coalition – in power since 2013 – has vowed to maintain the fiscal incentives for companies and farmers to lower polluting emissions with the aim of reducing them by 26 percent by 2030.
However, the government refuses to pass legislation to implement the goals set out by the 2016 Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and continues to use carbon credits, a remnant of the Kyoto Protocol era that has been sharply criticized by environmentalists.
In addition, the Morrison-led coalition backs a huge coal extraction project in Queensland developed by the mining company Adani as well as the modernization of a coal-fired power plant in the state of South Australia, while it is also considering the possibility of supporting a low-emissions coal plant in Queensland.
The emission of pollutant gases has been constantly increasing since 2013 and the current mixed-power generation policy is not working when it comes to countering that trend, Mark Howden, the director of the Climate Change Institute, told EFE before the general election.
Many Aussies are becoming increasingly concerned by the impact of climate change, as evinced by the numerous student-led protests demanding urgent measures for the country to transition to a green economy that could help limit the planet’s warming to less than 1.5 degrees in this century.
The voices clamoring for putting up a fight against climate change have reached parliament, with independents such as Zali Stegall, who in these elections defeated former Liberal PM Tony Abbott and snatched his long-held seat by vowing to take up arms against global warming with a slew of green policy proposals.
Abbot – who was elected in 2013 after waging a scathing campaign against the Labor Party’s carbon tax – himself acknowledged in his concession speech that “where climate change is a moral issue, we Liberals do it tough; but where climate change is an economic issue, as the result tonight shows, we do very, very well.”