After a parliament revolt, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that his government has shelved intentions to deliver new targets on emissions reductions.
The embattled leader is facing pressure from his own party as well as the opposition amid strong rumors of an imminent leadership challenge, which has forced him to face down any objections to his position by bowing to pressure on climate change targets.
Turnbull’s original plan centered around the National Energy Guarantee, which would have trimmed Australia’s total output compared to 2005 by 26%, a figure that he was aiming to achieve by 2030. This would also have kept the nation in line with the agreements signed by most of the world’s leaders in Paris in 2015. Of all the signatory countries, only the US has pulled out under the stewardship of President Donald Trump, who reversed his predecessor’s involvement.
The Prime Minister eventually stepped away from the National Energy Guarantee following the threat of a no-confidence vote tabled by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and rebel MPs of the Liberal Party. Interestingly, Abbott was the incumbent at the time of the Paris agreement, and he originally announced Australia’s emissions targets.
In 2014, Abbott claimed that Australia could achieve higher than the 26% figure and quoted what he felt was a viable 28% reduction. However, both parties are now aiming to secure voter intent on the back of fluctuating energy markets at home and abroad amid a difficult period of growth for Australia.
Abbott has since told colleagues that he felt he was “misled” during the Paris agreement process and that it would be “madness” to try and adhere to the emissions targets set out in 2015 by altering the national energy policy.
Turnbull admitted this week that there was no way of passing the energy bill in its current form if it contained any reference to emissions targets and said that he watered down the bill to get it through, calling this the need to “focus on what you can deliver”.
Telling reporters that Australia’s domestic energy plans have always centered on getting the best deal for consumers, he said that “cheaper power has always been our number-one priority”.
Efforts to cement emissions-based policies into law have often struggled in the Australian parliament, with previous leaders finding themselves unable to pass legislation against strong opposition. Turnbull is unlikely to want to seek the same fate as some of his predecessors and hopes that this concession will stop his forcible removal. Rumors have intensified that the Australian Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, is ready to make a challenge.
These conversations come at a time when Australia is still reeling from some of the worst droughts in recent memory. State aid has gone to many farmers across Western Australia. With livestock farmers and crops both struggling in key areas, the topic of climate change seems prescient but has yet to find agreement on both sides of the fence in the political sphere. It is part of a back-and-forth agenda to try and secure crucial swathes of voters on both sides.
Australia’s bushfire season started earlier than usual in 2018, occurring well into winter rather than in the usual spring months. This news comes after January figures showing that Penrith, near Sydney, was the hottest place in the world at that time, reaching temperatures of 47.3ºC.