Australia PM pledges ‘new era’ of climate action
Mr Anthony Albanese took power at an election in May where Australia’s lack of action on climate change was a major issue. Image: AFP
From The Straits Times
SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised a “new era” of climate action and energy innovation under his centre-left Labor government, despite criticism from activists and Greens Party lawmakers who say that his planned cuts to emissions don’t go far enough.
Speaking to the Sydney Energy Forum on Tuesday (July 12), Albanese said Australia’s current energy infrastructure and policies are inadequate to handle the global fuel crisis which has been sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Albanese reiterated his promise to introduce new climate legislation, including a target of 43 per cent cuts by 2030 and net zero by 2050, when Australia’s Parliament sits for the first time under his leadership this month.
“This is a new day. It is a new era. We need to act – and we will act,” he said.
Albanese took power at an election in May where Australia’s lack of action on climate change was a major issue. While Labour won government with a majority in the lower house of Parliament, Albanese will be held to account by a wave of new lawmakers who were elected after campaigning for tougher action on climate change.
The Australian Greens Party and pro-climate action independent David Pocock hold the balance of power in the Australian Senate, leaving the new government highly dependent on them to pass legislation.
The Greens and Pocock have called for emission cuts of at least 60 per cent by 2030. Greens leader Adam Bandt has also called for an moratorium on any new coal or gas mines in Australia.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen has described the government’s 43 per cent emissions target as a floor rather than a “ceiling” for Labour’s climate ambitions. However, Albanese has been clear he will not legislate a higher target in his first term of government.
Albanese’s target brings Australia into line with nations including Canada, South Korea and Japan, though the plan remains less ambitious than action pledged by the United States, the European Union and Britain.
Bowen and US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm were scheduled on Tuesday to discuss collaboration on climate technology on the sidelines of the two-day forum. Ministers handling energy policy from the Quad nations – which also include India and Japan – are meeting for talks in Sydney alongside executives from companies including Siemens, Fortescue Metals Group and Mitsui & Co.
Australia has already seen the impact of climate change-fuelled natural disasters, including severe flooding in the state of New South Wales over the past month.
In his speech on Tuesday, Albanese said the extent of the flooding in Sydney has previously been described as a “once-in-a-thousand-year event”. “Guess what? It’s now an annual event,” he said.
Albanese said Australia can become a renewable energy “superpower,” describing the coming years as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity.
“Our government’s policies are designed to seize that opportunity with the determination and resolve it demands,” the prime minister said.
Climate change is also a major issue among Australia’s neighbouring Pacific nations, who have long criticised Australia for not living up to its climate action obligations. Canberra is working to burnish its credentials in the Pacific among a growing battle for influence with Beijing in the region.
Albanese is expected to head to the Pacific Islands Forum on Wednesday to meet with regional leaders.
“Australia will once again be a trusted global partner on climate action. I am ambitious about what we can achieve together,” he said.