Australia has won the climate election. The hard part is now. Now it’s possible to see a government committed to domestic climate action. This could include speeding up the expulsion of coal and natural gas from our grid, electrifying transportation, and exporting large quantities of fossil fuels to other countries.
We could easily fall into the “Norway trap”, clean at home but dirty abroad. Norway has been a strong advocate for clean energy and electric transport in its home country and is progressing toward reducing its carbon emissions by 55% by the end of this decade. However, it has doubled its export of oil and gas reserves, which could lead to a decline in its domestic achievements.
Labor in Australia still supports and expands our fossil fuel exports. They are the largest contributor to global warming. The support of fossil fuels has undoubtedly helped keep Hunter, in New South Wales, a coal seat.
We must immediately reduce the influence of the fossil fuel lobby and include our export emissions in the government’s net-zero plans to change this situation.
Isn’t that the climate election?
Both major parties softened on climate action despite clear mandates. They wanted to attract voters with large coal and gas infrastructures. In Queensland, seats such as Hunter and Flynn saw swings to Labor, in a reverse of the 2022 election when Labor was not perceived to represent coal communities’ interests.
This time, Labor made its support explicit, highlighting the continuation and expansion of fossil fuel exports. Speaking to the Minerals Council last summer, Anthony Albanese stated that coal exports would be continued.
This means that Australia will be announcing its renewed commitment to reducing emissions and its continued role as the largest exporter of fossil fuels globally at the next global summit. On production cuts, we could see ourselves aligned once more with Russia.
The fact that Australia’s global emissions are only 1.2% is a long-standing climate skeptic argument. This is the 15th highest in the entire world. Our vast exports of liquefied natural gases (LNG), thermal, and metallurgical coke are equivalent to twice our domestic emissions. This means that exports make up the largest part of our contribution to climate change.
The only way to make real change is to control the lobbyists
While Labor and the Coalition continue to listen to the fossil fuel sector and accept millions in donations, little will be done about the current situation. The fossil fuel industry has donated hundreds of millions to political parties over the last decade. Woodside is one of Australia’s biggest oil and gas producers. It has donated more than A$2million to political parties.
The revolving door between politicians and staffers working for fossil fuel companies will continue slowing down climate policy.
This election is a chance to make a much-needed reset. We must address Australia’s entire contribution to climate change. That includes our role as one of the world’s top exporters of government-subsidized fossil fuels. It is not enough to aim to make Australia net zero. We must also ensure that the export industry continues to grow, with over 100 fossil fuel projects currently in the pipeline.
The government should immediately take steps to crack down on fossil fuel lobbyists and the revolving doors. It would be easy to ban government employees from joining the fossil fuel sector without a lengthy cool-down period. Also, ex-ministers and politicians should not be allowed to take up lucrative positions in the industry after leaving politics. The government should end all indirect and direct subsidies to fossil fuel industries.
Over the past two decades, our fossil fuel lobby has won too many victories. Our government cannot rely on an industry that is not compatible with a healthy climate. Lobby groups can be expected to take a rest for a while. These lobbyists are there to ensure that they can continue to export large quantities of fossil fuels.
Our role in warming the planet cannot be ignored
You’ve undoubtedly heard the argument that someone will export our fossil fuels if we don’t. This argument doesn’t hold up.
This is because it ignores the potential impact of leadership in this area. It would be a great thing if one of the largest fossil fuel exporters in the world began to reduce its exports and provide a fair transition for all affected. This would impact fossil fuel finance and show that this industry is finally under control. This would demonstrate to our Pacific neighbors that we are capable of changing.
This argument is morally questionable. This argument is also morally questionable. Our leaders and fossil fuel companies cannot be let off the hook simply because other fossil fuel exporters are there. If this argument were true, Australia would not hesitate to engage in corruption or bribery to achieve its goals if it is likely that other countries will do the same.
We have the first chance in many years to reduce our emissions locally and internationally with this election result and the climate campaigns of Greens and teal Independents.