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Aussie election campaign blows hot air on climate

by Iyzklez
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Australia’s climate-focused election is blowing a lot of hot air. It’s a rare country where green issues sit atop the list of priorities. The $1.3 trillion economy is among the most vulnerable to global warming, but also depends on coal. Unfortunately, neither of the main political parties is tackling the contradiction head-on.

Voters typically care most about their wallets. And in Australia, where growth is cooling after a nearly three-decade run without a recession, it is indeed an important factor ahead of the May 18 ballot. An ABC poll, however, found that the environment was the number one concern for 29% of respondents, compared to just 9% in 2016, and ahead of 23% who rated the economy first. During the U.S. elections in November, climate change ranked 11th among issues, according to Gallup.

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There’s good reason to worry Down Under. Recent months have brought record temperatures and floods, while a terrible drought has devastated parts of eastern Australia. And yet coal, iron ore, gas and oil are huge contributors to the country’s exports, power and employment.

Both the Liberal-National coalition and the Labor opposition have strayed on the subject. The incumbent alliance’s track record is especially poor. Former Liberal leader Tony Abbott called climate science “absolute crap”. A scandal over state water purchases has not helped. The party attacked Labor on the cost of going green – as much as A$35 billion ($24 billion), they say – but has spent less time discussing the cost of not making the transition.

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The Labor Party under Bill Shorten has a clearer policy on electric vehicles, batteries, renewable energy and reducing emissions. It refuses to put a price on them, though.

It’s all a missed opportunity given the zeal from voters, and their understanding that a coherent environmental policy is associated with broader competence. What’s more, as a country severely threatened by climate change, Australian politicians are in position to take a global lead. Regulators and the central bank have suggested any transition to a less carbon-intensive economy ought to be early and orderly. It’ll take stronger leadership for that to happen.



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