Australian news, and some related international items

Election result: no action on climate change

Australia's politiciansAustralians still waiting for climate leadership USA election 2016 Geoff Cousins, 10 July 16 

Judging from the federal election you wouldn’t know that the public call for leadership on climate change is the highest it has been for a decade in Australia.

In the past 12 months we’ve seen large sections of the Great Barrier Reef turn ghostly white from coral bleaching and sections of Tasmania’s ancient World Heritage forests reduced to cinders in unseasonal fires.  The images of Australian suburban homes and swimming pools teetering on the brink of collapse into the ocean off Sydney are burned vividly into the Australian public psyche as a prescient reminder of what’s at stake with more extreme and frequent storm surges predicted under global warming.

The next Federal Parliament must deliver genuine leadership to cut pollution and limit global warming to get in line with the concerns of voters across Australia.

The ALP stepped up early in the election campaign with strong renewable energy policies and Bill Shorten often spoke of his party’s plan to take “real action on climate change” in his pre-election pitches.

Strong policies on tackling carbon pollution from the Greens were announced early in the campaign, and other parties increased their environmental positions as the campaign wore on.

Disappointingly, the Coalition remain without a credible plan to cut pollution or support clean energy, and announcements for smart cities and reef protection were largely funded out of existing clean energy budgets.

In the end neither major party were able to convince that public that they had a sufficient plan for the future.

In recent days our airwaves have been filled with the voices of Australians angry that their politicians aren’t representing them or listening to their community.

There is a strong sense that the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry are still wagging the dog when it comes to transitioning Australia to a clean energy future.

Indeed, instead of acknowledging the calls for climate action at the community level, some politicians have taken to criticising the community concerns being raised rather than acknowledge their own policy failures.

When it comes to the environment, most Australians are clear on what they want.

Protecting our rivers, reefs and forests and real action on climate change consistently rated as the top election issues for Australians.

Polling throughout the campaign demonstrated that 72 per cent of Australians were concerned or very concerned about climate change. In fact, the call for leadership on climate change was at its highest since 2008.

ABC’s Vote Compass found climate change was in the top three election issues for people in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria and the ACT. And climate change was ranked as the top five election issues searched for during the election campaign, according to Google analytic data. During the early weeks of the campaign, the Great Barrier Reef was the second biggest media issue in the country.

And yet we are still witnessing a cognitive dissonance in translating public concern into meaningful political leadership. Is this one of the key reasons voters are now turning in droves to minor parties and independents?

The Nick Xenophon Team, which will be key in holding the balance of power, made significant gains during the campaign, including committing to solid targets to cut pollution, a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 and to strengthen the laws that protect our environment.

The candidates and parties that listened to the Australian community fared much better in this election than those that closed their ears to democracy.

It was the rise of community leadership that was the real winner in this election.

Over 300 climate change-related public events in 34 electorates were run by volunteers and organisations across the country. These included dozens of candidate forums, public rallies and even community choirs in town centres calling for leadership from politicians. Thousands of volunteers hosted community stalls, door-knocked their neighbourhoods and phoned others in their communities to talk about the importance of cutting pollution and supporting clean energy at this election.

Australians want to be a part of the clean energy solution, not stuck in the polluting past. They want our reef protected and our rivers to flow clean. They are waiting. Waiting for action and for politicians to really listen. But this election has shown that they will not wait forever and parties that ignore the people will suffer the electoral consequences.

No matter the final outcome of the election, the leadership challenge has been laid down for all federal parliamentarians in this next term of government by millions of Australian citizens across the political spectrum.

Cut pollution. Quit coal. Unleash the clean energy boom. Protect our land, water, reefs and forests for future generations. It’s what the people of Australia want. The question is, will this disparate batch of elected representatives finally listen?

Geoff Cousins is president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.


July 10, 2016 - Posted by | election 2016

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