Climate change is one of Australia’s greatest challenges. But according to the government and Labour, it is not so clear cut

Climate change poses one of the greatest challenges of our lifetimes, but a brief glimpse of what the two major parties are spurting as we move from budget to election, and it may not seem so clear.

Take a look at the Morrison government budget.

Switching to renewables is the easiest and most urgent part of solving the climate crisis, as scientists have been telling us for decades.

But what about this urgency? This was not a priority in the government’s budget, which provided no major new funding for renewable energy generation.

In fact, when the government tallied up its total “climate spending” in the budget documents, it revealed a 35% reduction by 2026, with a total of $700 million less spent on climate in 2026 than today.

It is not known exactly from which programs this money comes. Some will be savings from the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund, but the budget documents don’t specify.

Wherever it comes from, budget documents show there are no plans to put that money back into reducing emissions over the next four years.

There are few climate measures, but one could be a “trick”

There were no new dollars for electric vehicles (an area where Australia lags much of the world) and no new funds for communities in transition that rely on coal jobs ( which the government badly needed to reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050).

The government has earmarked $148.6 million for 60 community renewable micro-grids, improving the reliability of regional electricity supply without relying on dirty and noisy diesel generators.

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In early March, the IPCC warned that the window to save us from climate change was “closing fast”.

But this funding extends beyond the period covered by the budget, and the documents do not explain what part of this amount, if any, is “new” money – i.e. that it has yet to be announced elsewhere, which experts identified as a “trick”. used throughout this year’s budget.

There has been a significant change in the government’s approach to climate change in this budget compared to the previous one.

Last year, the government’s rhetoric explicitly embraced support for fossil fuels as a central objective of the budget: it was framed as ‘gas recuperation’.

This year, the word “gas” did not appear once in the treasurer’s speech. But according to analysis by progressive think tank The Australia Institute, the budget includes nearly $4 billion in measures, most of which will end up flowing to the gas industry in the form of subsidies.

Most significant in the budget documents was a $50.3 million allocation to “accelerate the development of real estate gas infrastructure.”

The Australia Institute’s analysis also includes investments in “low-emission technologies”, which are allowed to go gas, as well as investments in the National Water Grid, which includes water infrastructure for a gas hub, and patent grants, mainly for “low emissions technology” which includes gas.

The gas industry itself was pleased with what it saw, with the industry lobby group noting in a press release: “Federal budget confirms gas is at heart of economy”.

Emissions Reductions Minister Angus Taylor said the government’s budget measures would support reliable energy and help Australia reach its goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

“Our technology, non-fiscal approach will ensure that Australia meets and exceeds our 2030 emissions target, and plays a leading role in reducing global emissions by investing in technologies that will not only help Australia , but will help the world,” he said.

Labor has a plan, but its target is weaker this election

In Labor’s budget response, climate change was more prominent, with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese trying to convince voters of his “Powering Australia” plan.

Anthony greets those seated on the other side of Parliament from where he is delivering his budget response speech.
Anthony Albanese did not reveal any planned new spending on climate change.(PA: Lukas Coch)

But Mr Albanese did not reveal any spending on climate change beyond what had already been announced. The Labor plan is therefore not “new”. It plans to spend $24 billion to upgrade Australia’s power grid to support more renewables to encourage private investment in renewables, build community batteries and solar generation, and reduce emissions. of public service.

Modeling commissioned by the opposition suggests so will generate $76 billion in private investment in renewable energy, reduce energy bills and bring Australia to the Labor Party’s 2030 target: a 43% reduction in emissions below 2005 levels.

But it is this goal that has been a source of criticism from climate scientists and environmentalists.

While significantly better than the Morrison government’s 26 per cent target, it is weaker than Labor’s target in the last election, and it’s not what experts say Australia needs do to help keep the heating below 1.5°C – and not even enough for 2°C.

According to the Climate Targets Panel, Australia must cut its emissions by 74% by 2030 to do its fair share of stopping warming at 1.5°C and by 50% to stop it at 2°C.

On the ground, there are serious concerns

There are other parties and groups with stronger goals.

The Greens’ policy includes a 75% cut in emissions by 2030 and an immediate ban on building new coal, oil and gas infrastructure.

And now there is a swath of independents running in seats traditionally held by the Coalition, calling for stronger goals.

Zali Steggall, the MP for the Warringah seat in Sydney – which she took after dethroning former member Tony Abbott – backed a 2030 target of 60%.

And Allegra Spender, an independent candidate for Wentworth’s Sydney seat – also once held by another former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull – backed a 46-50% target, which is the same as that backed by the Business Council of Australia.

As for the two major parties, one cannot help but think that they want climate change to be a secondary issue this election.

If you live in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, an area hit by severe flooding for the second time in a month, it’s hard to ignore.

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Video footage shows major flooding in Lismore CBD(NSW SES)

During the first floods in early March, global climate experts like Mark Howden, director of the ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, said climate change had played a role.

“We can say that climate change is already embedded in this event. These events are driven in particular by ocean temperatures, and we know very well that these have increased due to climate change, due to the influence human,” said Professor Howden.

The real-time fate of towns like Lismore is something any would-be ruler of this nation should ideally consider when allocating dollars.

Many Lismore residents are very worried about the future, including local business leader Ellen Kronen.

“We’re a tough bunch here. But you can only stretch that resilience until you say ‘I’m going to quit,'” she told the ABC, after the initial flooding.

Now, after this week’s second wave of flooding, its outlook underscores the grim reality – for Lismore and beyond.

“We hit a low point because you look at it and wonder how long it will take to get over it.”

Teresa H. Sadler