Australian Election 2022

Finally, Climate Change Has Become An Election Talking Point. Here’s What the Parties Are Promising.

Climate change is finally on the agenda.
Here's Where the Major Parties Stand On Climate Change
Compilation via Getty Images

On Monday, the Coalition was forced to reckon with a deeply entrenched party disagreement on climate change, yet again. 

Until this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had somehow managed to successfully sidestep any discussion of his government’s climate change mitigation policies, which have broadly been described by experts as “insufficient”. 

Now, the Coalition is being forced to reckon with its greatest re-election vulnerability, as the government suffers a very public tremor of political infighting which has seen some party members describe Morrison’s climate policy as one that’s “flexible”, while others have declared a need for net zero commitments “dead”. 


Australian voters might disagree.

The largest set of 2022 federal election polling data collected to date found that, in order of importance, more than 97,000 Australians preferenced “climate change” as their leading vote decider heading into the May 21 election, which accounted for 29 percent voter preferences.

It’s a fact both the Prime Minister and his federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, each seemed acutely aware of on Wednesday, as they tried to offer assurances to moderate Liberals, the business community, and Australian voters more broadly. 

But after trying to trot out untruths about a “carbon tax” Morrison claimed Labor would implement if elected, he found himself on the ropes. Labor hit back, accurately pointing to the fact that they would not roll out a “carbon tax” if installed to government after the election, and that instead, it was the Coalition that introduced a “carbon tax” by stealth back in 2013.

Morrison was asked about it by a reporter again later on Wednesday. His defence was reliably weak. 

“No, the difference is, as would you know, how the thresholds work and the fact we put incentives in place. What Labor is doing is binding them on this and issuing penalties on those companies, so they couldn’t be more different,” Morrison said. 

In effect, Morrison is saying his government does have a carbon tax, it just doesn’t work – even if it is a core part of the Coalition’s roadmap to net zero by 2050.  


Without that core deterrent, and other complimentary incentives introduced to get companies to stop burning fossil fuels, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Morrison government’s climate policy is rendered null and void.

If you’re yet to make up your mind, here’s how the Liberal National Party’s climate change policy stacks up compared to those tabled by Anthony Albanese’s Labor Party, and Adam Bandt’s Greens.

The Coalition’s Climate Policy

At the heart of the climate policy Morrison is taking to the election is the net zero by 2050 commitment he made at the COP26 international climate conference in October last year. 

In theory, that means the Coalition would have to oversee a reduction to the rate of greenhouse gas emissions that is equal to, or less than, the amount of carbon dioxide Australia is removing from the atmosphere. 

In practice, that doesn’t necessarily mean Australia would have to dispense with coal altogether, though it would make it a hell of a lot easier. To get there, Morrison plans to spend more than $20 billion on low emissions technologies that, crucially – and ironically – do not yet exist. 

The plan, which the Coalition drew up when it released its “technology investment roadmap” last year, would prioritise “clean” hydrogen, “ultra-low-cost solar”, battery storage of renewable power, and carbon capture and storage, which is broadly criticised by scientists for being the climate tech equivalent of snake oil. 


Other footnotes to the Morrison government’s climate policy include investments in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, along with the introduction of incentives for businesses that might be considering switching their fleets to EVs.

But the policy isn’t without its shortcomings. 

Critics have been overwhelmingly outspoken not only about Morrison’s failure to sign the UN’s pledge to end coal fire power (which Labor would also not do if elected either, but we’ll get to that later), but also to go ahead and expedite the approval of countless new coal and gas projects. Just last month, Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced his government would accelerate seven new fossil fuel projects.

Beyond his intimate relationship with the resources sector, Morrison has been broadly lashed for failing to commit to more ambitious emissions reductions targets by 2030. 

As it stands, the Morrison government has promised to cut between just 26 and 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, against 2005 levels. 

It’s a palatable Liberal Party climate middle ground that has been around since Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, in 2013.

Labor’s Climate Policy

By comparison, Labor’s emissions reduction strategy is relatively ambitious. 

Should Albanese win at the upcoming federal election, Labor would move to cut emissions by 43 percent on 2005 levels, still well below the 50 to 75 percent target band recommended by experts, while still giving the go-ahead to new and existing coal and gas projects and committing to net zero by 2050.


Even still, Albanese’s 2030 emissions reduction pledge would bring Australia in line with slightly less carbon offensive global carbon economies, like Canada which has pledged a cut of between 40 and 45 percent, South Korea which has promised 40 percent, and Japan where emissions are expected to dip 46 percent by 2030.

To get there, Albanese is banking on a crop of “big ideas” that bank on major investments into the renewables sector. 

Labor has dubbed it the “Powering Australia” plan, and promises to create more than 600,000 jobs,drive down power prices by $275 per household annually come 2025 and drive private investment. 

The cost? A cool $683 million.

Like the Coalition, Labor has also included an EV sweetener in its climate policy that promises to make them cheaper, with discounts via Australia’s “first” National Electric Vehicle Strategy, and pour substantial funding into solar power and community batteries.

Under a Labor government, Australia would also allocate up to $3 billion to investments in improving “green metals”, like steel, alumina and aluminium, along with clean energy component manufacturing, hydrogen electrolysers and fuel switching; agricultural methane reduction and waste reduction.

For the most part, Labor’s climate policy has been well received. 

It has even secured the support of the conservative Business Council of Australia (which has grown more progressive courtesy of Australia’s burgeoning tech sector), which as recently as Wednesday said a concrete commitment to net zero is “critical” to business and investment certainty.


The Greens’ Climate Policy

Like the Coalition and Labor, the Greens have promised to develop more batteries, give the nation’s electricity grid a makeover and reduce the cost of electric vehicles. But, as you would expect, they go much further than their friends on the right.

When it comes to emission reduction targets, they emerge as a clear winner for Australian voters who say they will be swayed by climate change mitigation when they head to the polls in May. 

If elected, the Greens have promised to reduce emissions by 75 percent come 2030, before hitting net zero 15 years ahead of schedule, in 2035. 

Unsurprisingly, getting there would rely heavily on an “immediate ban” on the construction of new coal and gas projects, which Greens leader Adam Bandt has hung his hat on, as well as a promise to switch Australia’s energy mix to 100 percent renewable energy and phase out the mining, burning and export of thermal coal by 2030.

To ease the transition, the Greens have also promised to help mining workers and the communities that depend on them to create “long term, sustainable” industries that would employ them, and help wean regional centres off fossil fuels.

Some footnotes of the Greens’ climate policy include banning political donations from the mining and resources sector; making polluters pay for the environmental damage they cause; creating a non-profit publicly owned energy retailer to put downward pressure on energy bills; expanded funding for the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO; and, increasing the funding to indigenous ranger programs.

How do they plan to pay for it all? Simple: tax major corporations for a return of $338 billion.

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