analysis | Climate has won the Australian election. wielding power will be more difficult


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Getting power is an easy part of politics. It matters what you do with it.

It will be a challenge for Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, after a stunning victory in Saturday’s elections that ousted the center-right Liberal-National Coalition from power after nine years.

The scale of the Albanian Labor Party’s victory seems surprisingly simplistic. As a share in the ruling House of Representatives, it is likely to have the smallest majority in the new government since 1931. But the degree of disaster for the coalition is unprecedented. Once all the votes have been counted, it will struggle to get as many seats as 55+ in the 150-seat House of Representatives. This is equivalent to the absence of the Labor Party in power for 10 years in 1996 and 2013. Compared to the size of the House of Representatives, the coalition government is likely to hold its lowest number of seats since it first came to power in 1949.

To make matters worse, the sortie deep within the electoral center is a defeat. The result is similar to how the 2016 US Senate and Electoral College blushing gave Donald Trump a victory, and the Democrats have been shaken in power since 2018. Similarly, the British Labor Party’s once strong Scottish Nationalist Party and Brexit-sympathetic Conservatives’ seats broke through the so-called ‘red wall’ after the 2010 elections.

Outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison caused the catastrophe by pushing the former centre-right Liberal Party in a more steadfastly conservative direction than his predecessors. Women in particular protested because he felt he had been blinded to allegations of rape and sexual assault brought up within Congress and within his cabinet. About three-quarters of federal politicians in the coalition who will vote on Saturday are men, while half of Labor lawmakers are women.

The shift is most evident with seating inside six affluent suburbs across Sydney and East Melbourne. The area has been the bedrock of the Liberal Party since its creation during World War II, and will now be occupied by so-called turquoise independents, mainly professional women with a focus on gender, anti-corruption and above all climate. (The Greens will win three or four more centre-left urban voters.)

It will be difficult for the Liberals to find their way to power without reclaiming these turquoise voters. But over the past decade, voters have been outraged by the top-down, centralized tendencies of the major parties and have tended to stick to independents. Rather than treating minority candidates as mere protest votes, of the seven candidates elected to the House of Representatives since 2013 at a time for several years, all but populist mining baron Clive Palmer have been re-elected multiple times and are still in Congress.

All of this sounds like good news for Labour, but the challenge lies in how Labour uses its victories. Although Albanians are likely to win a majority in Parliament, it is very unlikely that Albanians will win a majority in Parliament in the next election, scheduled for 2025. Opposition to the Liberals tends to be thinner and is set to rise at the fastest rate since the 1980s. This means that it is unwise for Albanians to rule without seeing an Independent who may need their vote sooner or later. Meanwhile, any bill that passes the Senate will almost certainly require a Greens vote.

The real winner of this election has been the public will to the climate. Although 29% of voters identified it as the most important issue, Labor and the coalition overcame it as they found they had been putting cross-pressure between rural areas over the past decade. It focuses on mining and urban voters who prioritize environmental issues.

The Labor Party’s climate policy, burnt out by the 2019 elections, which lost its position in the Hunter Valley, the world’s largest coal export basin, is surprisingly unambiguous. Renewable power will increase to 82% of the grid by 2030, up from 68% projected by the previous government, with some incentives for electric vehicles. Nevertheless, a plan to cut emissions by 30% over 10 years would place Australia’s carbon burden of 351 million metric tons. uk.

In an industry likely to overtake power as Australia’s largest emission sector during this government’s tenure, Albanese is planning to avoid the major pollutants and scars his Labor predecessors Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard did. There are no plans to put a price on carbon, and emission reductions will be provided primarily through projected increases in energy efficiency, agricultural offsets and renewables. Fugitive emissions of gases from coal mines and oil wells, primarily a function of Australia’s fossil fuel exports, are projected to remain nearly constant over the next decade.

It still remains the most important and poorly recognized problem than ever. Australia is the largest exporter of fossil fuels after Russia and Saudi Arabia. Measured by the carbon content of exports, its high dependence on coal means that its burden slightly exceeds that of Saudi Arabia. Addressing this issue remains a risk to the Australian Government, its import and export imports and mineral royalties it relies on, and jobs in key positions. But as the world becomes decarbonised, Canberra will ultimately have to deal with or solve the problem. International climate accounting cares a lot about whether Australia’s carbon is emitted within its borders or from export markets. Vulnerable agricultural land and ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef have the same effect as carbon entering the atmosphere anywhere in the world.

Although cynical, one of the Rudd-Gillard administration’s biggest victories from 2007 to 2013 was to usher in an era in which both coal and LNG exports increased by around 45% when Australia made modest progress in its climate priorities. A repeat of the feat of keeping a coalition government out of power until the 2030s politically, rather than destroying one’s environment to become rich, would be a famous victory. But the fate of the planet demands that the Albanians do better.

More from Bloomberg comments:

• How the climate is splitting Australian parties: David Fickling

The #MeToo movement is not over. It’s not down under. nowhere: Ruth Pollard

Australia has a Chinese problem and a Chinese problem: Tim Culpan

This column does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP or its owners.

David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering energy and commodities. He previously worked for Bloomberg News, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.

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