Leading article: A mixed result for the environment

Share
Related Topics

On the face of it, the failure of the Labor Party, under the leadership of Julia Gillard, to secure victory in the Australian elections is a setback for those who argue that democratic political systems are capable of meeting the immense challenge of climate change.

Australia is on the front line of global warming. Farmers in the vast Murray-Darwin Basin are suffering from an acute drought, which scientists are increasingly confident is a consequence of incipient climate change. The country's ecosystem is seen as one of the most vulnerable in the world to the consequences of a warmer planet. But Australians are one of the prominent contributors to global warming, as well as one of its likely early victims. Australia emits more greenhouse gases per head of population than any other nation on earth.

The Labor Party stormed to power in 2007 under Ms Gillard's predecessor Kevin Rudd, promising radical action on climate change. Mr Rudd called global warming "the greatest moral challenge of our time" and one of his first acts on taking office was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which his right-wing successor John Howard had rejected. Contrast that with the rhetoric of the opposition Liberal-National Party. They are led by Tony Abbott, who has cast doubt on the science underpinning climate change and who deposed his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, who was an advocate of strong action to cut emissions. Mr Abbott has also vowed to oppose any move to impose a national carbon tax.

Yet Mr Abbott's views have, of late, seemed more in tune with the public mood. Polls show that, since 2007, the number of Australians describing climate change as a "serious and pressing problem" has fallen. And, in contrast to three years ago, global warming was not a prominent feature in the election campaign. It would appear that, in denying Labor an outright victory and giving Mr Abbott a shot at power, the Australian public has also rejected serious action on reducing carbon emissions.

But the situation is more complicated. The slide in Labor support at this election has, in part, been put down to the government's decision to delay the introduction of its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which would have given industries a financial incentive to reduce their carbon dioxide pollution. Mr Rudd talked the talk on climate change, but when faced with opposition to the ETS in parliament, he shelved the project. Mr Rudd was removed earlier this year in a Labor coup. And all that Ms Gillard, has proposed is a "citizens' assembly" to gauge public support for the ETS.

As for Mr Abbott, he has toned down his scepticism about the science underpinning climate change in the election campaign. And he too committed his party to reducing Australia's emissions by the end of the decade, although without offering specifics on how this will be achieved.

Now a Green Party lower house parliamentarian, Adam Bandt, who won the seat of Melbourne from Labor, is among a handful of independent representatives who are going to hold the balance of power as the two largest parties compete to form a viable ruling coalition. The Greens also did well in the elections for the upper house and could end up holding the balance of power there too. Overall, the environmental party's share of the vote increased to a record 11 per cent. And many Labor members were returned with the help of the second preference votes of Green supporters.

The Australian election result can scarcely be called a victory for the environment. But those who understand the importance of democratic efforts to curtail runaway climate change will continue to look with interest at developments Down Under.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

h2 Recruit Ltd: Inside Sales Manager - Accountancy Software - £80,000 OTE

£50000 - £60000 per annum + £80,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Reading , Sou...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - BIM Software - £55,000 OTE

£40000 per annum + OTE £55,000 +Pension : h2 Recruit Ltd: An excellent opportu...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Commodities Brokers / Sales / Closers / Telesales

£10000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Investment consultancy firm sp...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is recr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
More vegetarian and vegan options are now available for consumers  

The stereotypes around vegetarians and vegans must stop: I've never worn tie-dye, I'm not weak, and I can't stand Morrissey

Liz Cookman
 

You wouldn't give your child untested medicine, so why would you give them an untested education?

Oliver Wright
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital