Australia on course to become renewables superpower

Incoming Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who won the weekend election with the opposition centre-left Labor Party, has said Australia could become a renewable energy superpower.

The issue is hugely significant for a country which has been hard hit by wildfires and rising temperatures in recent years, but whose economy has also been strongly geared towards mining of fossil fuels.

Speaking to the BBC shortly after his election victory, Albanese said: “We have an opportunity now to end the climate wars in Australia.  Australian businesses know that good action on climate change is good for jobs and good for our economy, and I want to join the global effort.”

Albanese, who will be heading Australia’s first Labor government in almost a decade, also promised to adopt more ambitious emissions targets. However, he has so far refused calls to phase out coal use or to block the opening of new coal mines.

The victory for Albanese could yet prove to be highly significant for a country which in recent years has been seen as something of a laggard in its approach to addressing climate change risks.

Indeed, the former Liberal-National coalition of centre-right parties had not exactly been a front runner on climate policy since coming to power in 2013, with the previous Prime Minister Scott Morrison slow to accept the reality of climate change. 

As treasurer in 2017, he brought a lump of coal to parliament and announced: “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you.” During Australia’s worst wildfires on record in 2019, he took a holiday to Hawaii, pronouncing: “I don’t hold a hose”.

In October 2021, PM Morrison finally bowed to international pressure to commit to net zero emissions by 2050. But his government still had a 2030 emissions target of just 26-28% below 2005 levels – one of the weakest among developed nations.

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