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How Climate Change Will Affect Australia’s Upcoming Election

How Climate Change Will Affect Australia’s Upcoming Election
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Written by Ari Phillips

It’s election season in Australia and, unlike in the U.S., climate change is a major issue.

On September 7 Australians will choose between the two presidential candidates (they’re really just party leaders, per the parliamentary system, but they campaign like presidential candidates). Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia and the leader of the liberal-leaning Labor Party, is pitted against Tony Abbott, leader of the opposition center-right Liberal Party and head of the Coalition, a formal alliance of broadly center-right parties. Labor is fighting to stay in office after six tumultuous years, and is viewed as a slight underdog with most polls showing a close race.

The Situation On The Ground

The economy and climate change are two of the key issues going into the election. Climate change-related events have battered Australia so severely in recent years that many of them have their own names: the Big Dry, the Black Saturday Bushfires and the Angry Summer to name a few. In the last 10 months Australia has recorded its hottest day on record, hottest week on record, hottest month on record and hottest summer on record.

Climate change has started to impact everything from ski season to wine production Down Under. The economic toll of all this is severe. Combine that with the fact that Australia is a leading emitter of greenhouse gases (Australia’s per capita CO2 emissions are nearly twice the OECD average and more than four times the world average) due to its economic reliance on fossil fuels — especially coal and gas exports — and you get a perennial hot button issue.


Photo Credit: The Climate Institute


The History

In 2007, then newly-elected prime minister Rudd commissioned a report on how climate affected the Australian economy, released in 2008 as the Garnaut report. Labor put together climate legislation and joined the Kyoto protocol at the 2007 Bali UN climate summit. However the legislation stalled, and Rudd’s claim on the Labor party receded. Julia Gillard won a leadership battle over Rudd and then thinly prevailed over the Opposition in the 2010 elections. She did so with the votes of the Green MP and three Independents — and a promise to pursue climate legislation in 2011.

That year her strategy worked, when Australia passed a Carbon Reduction Pollution Scheme requiring polluters to pay for the atmospheric carbon pollution they create. After the legislation passed, a highly politicized debate ensued in which the Opposition government effectively labeled the plan a “carbon tax” which should be scrapped. According to John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, a Sydney-based independent NGO focusing on climate change solutions, Australia is just now emerging from the shadow of that contentious debate.

Connor thinks concern for climate change in Australia is on the cusp of a comeback after suffering some serious setbacks, such as the failed 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference and the drawn-out national debate over carbon pricing. Recent research by the Institute has shown that Australians are perceiving climate change as a phenomenon impacting their lives right now, not in the future, due to recent extreme weather events, including Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. and droughts, floods and fires across the country. Their research has also shown that people are starting to also see climate change as a cost of living issue that impacts food prices, insurance premiums and other familiar economic concerns.

The political carbon scheme hubbub culminated last month when Rudd announced he was moving the “carbon tax” to an emissions trading scheme a year earlier than planned, next July, to ease cost of living pressure for families and help support the non-mining sectors of the economy. The Opposition was quick to point out that it would also add billions of dollars to the federal budget. For a good primer on the ins-and-outs of the early shift to an emissions trading scheme, see this article in The Age.

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9:10AM PDT on Sep 1, 2013

signed, thanks for sharing

8:46PM PDT on Aug 31, 2013

we all face the same issues the planet over.......

4:41AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Dan B and they still aren't..although the farmers are getting a little annoyed..strange bunch those farmers they hate the Greens and they're still the only ones that talk about climate change etc..but our two major parties have shifted focus it's all things American...reminds me of the good'ol' know "All the way with LBJ or was that little bush (jnr) target Syria..."now that will be interesting

3:13AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

8:42AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

Nice catch Mandy. From what I have heard, the economy is still the top issue, by far. While global warming may be moving up the ladder, in the minds of the voters, it is still likely to take a back seat. Even the devate over the "carbon tax" is centered on the economic costs. Neither the voters nor the candidates appear to be placing the environment in the forefront.

5:13AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

My god you've cheapened our political system! They're going to be elected to be a PRIME MISTER, Australia is still technically part of the British Empire thus we DON'T have a president. Also they don't campaign anywhere near the same way that presidential candidates do, it doesn't go on anywhere near as long and nor do they spend anywhere near enough.
However both Abbot and Rudd are useless, I'm sure we will end up with another hung parliament and it will be up to independents to decide who the new Prime Minister, Climate Change isn't enough to swing the election one way or another. Again more examples of Care2 not researching properly and make stupid statements.

2:18AM PDT on Aug 25, 2013

will be interesting to see how this plays out. On the one hand we can't reduce emissions because we don't have the labor force to make the conversion to clean energy, and on the other we can't hurt the coal mining industry because that will cost jobs

8:40PM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

Thanks Brian...have read about both..can't understand why the Government is so slow on the up take..well the elections are not far off..getting all very silly..glad when they're over..still hoping for a Hung Parliament..make them work for their money I say..

10:34AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

ros g I'm sorry, but I spelled it wrong. The company website is They have three offices in Australia Also Aquamarine Power, in Scotland has an Oyster 800 wave power generator that could possibly work well in Australia. Scotland also invented the AK1000, a giant wave power undersea turbine, capable of generating enough power for 1000 homes. Australia has very good wave power potential, and they should try to do everything they can to harness it.

9:56AM PDT on Aug 24, 2013

rod g. Go to The wave power company has three offices in Australia Also Aquamarine power based in Scotland is going ahead with a wave farm in Scotland.Australia has great wave power potential. I think they should look to Scotland, the world wave power leader, and try to advance their technology.

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