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Climate & Energy Policy Deciding Topics in the 2019 Election

Climate & Energy Policy Deciding Topics in the 2019 Election

In our election analysis series, PhD candidate Linda Wollersheim compares the energy and climate change policies of the major parties for this year’s ‘Climate Election’.

Saturday’s election has been widely referred to as the ‘Climate Election’. In a way, this is both a continuation and departure point in Australian politics.

Australia has witnessed political turmoil over climate action and energy policies for more than a decade, with disputes over both issues having contributed to the fall of three Prime Ministers in the last six years.

A key difference in this year’s election is that energy and especially climate change policy have emerged as major vote-winning issues. ABC’s Vote Compass finds that 81 percent of voters want more government action on climate change and more than two-thirds of voters are in favour of boosting renewable energy.

Support for renewables and for more government action on climate change was overwhelming among Greens voters (99 percent) and Labor voters (96 percent). Even a majority of Coalition voters (60 percent) shares the desire to ramp up action.

Australian voters are taking to the polls the view that time has run out to wait any longer on climate change.

Australian voters are taking to the polls the view that time has run out to wait any longer on climate change.

Australia recorded its hottest year on record in 2018, and severe heatwaves, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, floods, devastating fish kills and continuing coral bleaching threatening the survival of the Great Barrier Reef, only reiterate the urgency of meaningful action. Framed variously as social justice, environmental or economic matters, political parties have put forward their plans for climate change action – presenting a clear choice this election.

In a nutshell, the Coalition government is pushing for its Climate Solutions Package that includes a range of measures, excluding any plans to increase renewable energy beyond the existing 2020 target.

The Coalition is maintaining its commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 – even though this target falls short of what is required to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

Windmill at sunset, Outback Australia.

Labor has proposed a Climate Change Action Plan, including a suite of policies to increase renewables, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and to promote industry transformation, and has committed to a more ambitious target to reduce emissions by 45% on 2005 levels by 2030. This target still falls short on meeting Australia’s Paris commitments; however, it raises the level of action and proposes to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Greens are the only political party going to the election with climate policies aligning with international obligations, outlining a total transition away from fossil fuels and an emissions reductions target of 63-82% on 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2040.

As such, the 2019 ‘Climate Election’ offers a clear choice between prolonging Australia’s lack of vision and “climate wars” between the main parties, or voting for a future-guided social investment approach.

Linda Wollersheim is a PhD candidate at the Alfred Deakin Institute and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, Deakin University. Her current research focuses on policy and supply chain aspects of renewable energy and the environmental and social implications of new alternative energy technologies. In the past, she has written on refugee and asylum seeker integration, focusing on Germany’s inaugural federal integration law.


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