There is an ongoing political crisis in Australia. Earlier today, the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, survived a leadership challenge by the former Home Affairs Minister in his government. He may yet face another challenge.
As the political drama unfolds, there is growing anger in the country that he has saved his short-term political skin by sacrificing the country’s long-term commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
The leadership challenge comes after days of political wrangling within the ruling Liberal-National coalition, with open warfare over the Government’s energy and climate change policies. The Liberal MPs in the coalition were threatening to vote against key energy legislation, so Turnbull dumped it.
As the Financial Times put it: “he was forced to shelve his flagship energy and climate policy, as a result of pressure from conservative lawmakers within his coalition and so far he has failed to pass his signature economic policy, corporate tax cuts, through parliament”.
Before yesterday, Turnbull’s signature energy policy, called the National Energy Guarantee, known ass NEG, included a pledge to cut Australia’s emissions by 26 per cent, based on 2005 levels, by 2030. It was a central part of the country being able to meet its international obligations under the 2015 UN Paris Agreement.
But yesterday, Turnbull ditched the plan in order to save his political skin as the Liberals were lining up against it. “In politics you have to focus on what you can deliver,” Mr Turnbull said yesterday: “Cheaper power has always been our number one priority when it comes to energy policy.”
So once again cheap dirty energy has literally trumped a clean sustainable future. It’s a far cry from ten years ago when then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said that climate change “the great moral issue of our generation”.
There has been a decade of climate wars ever since and yesterday Big Oil won again, as Turnbull admitted he did not have enough political support to get the energy bill through.
According to media reports, Turnbull “declared himself a hostage of a group of wreckers from the Liberal party’s conservative wing”, whose objective is to “kill the national energy guarantee.”
Turnbull has essentially caved into the climate deniers. As Graham Readfearn noted in the Guardian: “At the heart of all of this – the putrid rotten core that’s undermined all previous attempts to pull Australia and the world out of its spiral of climate impacts – has been a denial of the science of climate change.”
Erwin Jackson is senior climate change and energy advisor, from Environment Victoria, who takes up the same theme. “By dumping the commitment to take emissions targets to the federal parliament the PM is signalling climate change is not real”, he writes, but “In the real world, climate change continues.”
And continue it does: As the Guardian reports this morning: “The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.”
In this summer of broken climatic records, this has never happened before. One scientist called the loss “scary”. Its another sign that climate change is happening much faster than predicted. But Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t care. He is only trying to save his political career. At the expense of the rest of us.