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Scott Morrisons’s new policy offers only a subtle glare of credibility




For a political party whose right-wing faction held as a symbol of honor its willingness to strike back at past leaders who showed any sign of enthusiasm for reducing carbon emissions, changing course would never be easy. But with the winds of change turning the strength of the storms, Prime Minister Scott Morrison knew he had to act.

The most pragmatic of politicians, Mr. Morrison well understood that without a veneer of climate credibility, he would become the first on the world stage and, with the election on the eve, would be on the wrong side of growing public support for action and businesses.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced his new plan to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced his new plan to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

But the navigation of treacherous internal forces within the prime ministers’ own party, let alone those within the nationalists, was a gamble that could have gone terribly wrong. To his credit, he cursed his colleagues to support a zero-carbon net emissions target by 2050 without the result of the sunken train of previous efforts.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationalist leader Barnaby Joyce may behave like a hostile hostage when he explained the new policy, but for those MPs who have spent more than a decade using climate skepticism to incite political fear and hatred, it should be a requirement of stern to support him with straight face. But that they should, and that is the most powerful feature of politics. Gone are the days when Coalition MPs were given the freedom to cast doubt on the science of climate change, let alone enter Parliament with a piece of coal.

However, with all the benefits of closing the climate deniers, let us not claim that the new position of the Coalitions is nothing but thinner than veneer when it comes to credible policy. Basically, Morrison has worn out the government-based technology roadmap and resold it with a 2050 emissions target. It is replete with fantasy flights, promising a net zero future without job losses, higher taxes or damaging industry. All gains and painless.

If things were really that easy, you would have to wonder what the fuss was about. The reality, of course, is that the transition from fossil fuels is a major structural change that requires a global effort on a previously unproven scale. In Australia, any serious climate policy must include a plan to limit the fossil fuel industry, while developing the right base load and the production of disposable energy from a mix of renewable energy sources. The scale of this task, let alone the thousands of incremental changes needed to strengthen the transition, highlights the lack of policy that the Coalition has put on the table.


But if politics is the power of perception, British Prime Minister Boris Johnsons described the very public back for Mr. Morrison he described the change in Australian policy as heroic is the recognition that the new Coalition stance will win some praise at the next Glasgow climate summit. And if opposition leader Anthony Albanese does not fundamentally remove his game on climate policy, it could be enough to undermine one of the clear advantages of Labor policy.

Some may interpret it as Mr. Morrison’s smart policy, but it actually only highlights the sad state of climate policy in Australia. You would hope that the pandemic has taught us that political stance offers little protection from a real-world crisis. We seem to have a way to go before that lesson is learned.

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