Opinion – Australia’s new Prime Minister must move the country away from coal

Australian climate protestors accusing both Labor and the Liberal Party of ignoring climate change. Photo credit: Takver via Flickr.

By Anders Lorenzen

Back in July, the people of Australia voted in a general election. It was a tight election and it was long anticipated there would be a hung parliament with Labour and the coalition neck and neck. But in the end, The Coalition narrowly won and Malcolm Turnbull remained as the Prime Minister of Australia.

Now, Turnbull must rapidly begin the transition away from coal. It is a sad reality that the only political party in Australia who is truly willing to do what is needed to tackle climate change, the Greens, will not be in power.

Some environmentally friendly Australians would argue that Labour is the better party, both on climate change and the promotion of a renewable energy future, but it is only just. It is, of course, worth remembering that Labour created the carbon tax, while The Coalition abolished it. It was also The Coalition, who under Tony Abbott’s Premiership, distanced themselves from renewables and quickly became the anti-climate and anti-renewables government, with several climate deniers in government. But at the same time, regional Labour governments have approved reckless coal projects that threaten a future stable climate.

Much is at risk and coal is at the heart of it. Let’s take the Great Barrier Reef who, only last year, narrowly avoided being removed from the World Heritage list, and with recent coral bleaching hitting it this year, threatening to wipe out much of the reef, surely it will soon be a contender again. At the same time, the Australian government moves ahead with plans to build the world’s largest coal port and mine, which will border the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This would drastically increase shipping traffic and in return, further increase the risk to the reef. At the same time, little is done to reduce Australia’s CO2 emissions, which creates a warmer climate and is another factor that contributes to the demise of the reef.  

Australia has some of the best renewable energy potentials in the world, with the region of South Australia regularly setting new renewables generation and installation records. The continent is perfectly positioned to move towards a clean energy system. With more positive pro-renewable policies, thousands of new green jobs could be created.

However, it requires political will, and it is crucial that Turnbull sees that. While it is now an unpopular move to wage a war on coal in the country, in the future it could be a popular move. At a time where the rest of the world is moving away from coal, serious economic questions should be asked; who will buy Australia’s coal in the future?

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