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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick