Federal election 2022

24 May 2022

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What will the outcome mean for nature and climate in Australia?

On 21 May, Australians took to the polls and voted for change.

As the final votes are counted and the dust settles, here is a refresher on what Labor, the Greens and the “teal” independents pledged on the environment and climate change in the lead up to the election.  

The suite of positive policy positions held by an unprecedented number of our Parliamentarians would have been unthinkable just five years ago. It is thanks to the tireless efforts of hundreds of thousands of Australians taking action, and the support of a growing network of environment and climate philanthropists, that Australia is now positioned to act in line with what the science says we must do to ensure a safe planet where people and nature can thrive.  

We must seize this opportunity and ensure the policy commitments are implemented with the urgency the moment requires.  

Australian Labor Party

Environment laws  

The five-yearly State of the Environment report was tabled in Parliament in the final days of the Coalition government, however, it has not yet been made public. Its timely release once Parliament resumes will be a useful moment to remind Labor of its election commitment to provide a full response to the Samuel Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Labor’s election policy provides very little detail about environmental law reform other than stating “Labor will continue to work with stakeholders on environmental law reform, to make the nation’s environment laws work better for everyone”. 

Labor committed $224.5 million towards a Saving Native Species Program to develop a national koala strategy and “combat invasive species”.  

Labor also has specific policies on the Great Barrier Reef, urban rivers and catchments, marine parks and more on their website  

A National Environmental Protection Authority  

Labor committed to establish, for the first time, a federal Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to “ensure compliance with environmental laws, improve processes for proponents, and centralise data collection and analysis”. This has been a long-standing policy ask of the Places You Love Alliance of leading Australian environmental organisations.

Indigenous Rangers  

Labor committed to double the number of Indigenous Rangers by 2030 to 3800, and boost funding for the management of Indigenous Protected Areas to the tune of an additional $10 million each year. To address the poor access to water rights by Indigenous communities, Labor committed to deliver the “$40 million of cultural water promised in 2018 but not yet delivered by the Morrison Government”.

Climate change 

The centrepiece of Labor’s climate change policy is the Powering Australia plan, which Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese referred to regularly throughout the campaign, often at pains to point out that the Business Council of Australia, Australian Industry Group and National Farmers Foundation all support raising Australia’s climate ambition. Labor has committed to reduce Australia’s emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, which Climate Analytics reports is in keeping with 2 degrees of warming. 

The Powering Australia plan contains the following commitments, and more detail is available on the ALP website

  • Upgrade the electricity grid to fix energy transmission and drive down power prices. 
  • Make electric vehicles cheaper with an electric car discount and Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy. 
  • Adopt the Business Council of Australia’s recommendation for facilities already covered by the government’s Safeguard Mechanism that emissions be reduced gradually and predictably over time, to support international competitiveness and economic growth — consistent with industry’s own commitment to net zero by 2050. 
  • Allocate up to $3 billion from Labor’s National Reconstruction Fund to invest in green metals (steel, alumina and aluminium); clean energy component manufacturing; hydrogen electrolysers and fuel switching; agricultural methane reduction and waste reduction. 
  • Install 400 community batteries across the country. 
  • Demonstrate Commonwealth leadership by reducing the Australian Public Service’s own emissions to net zero by 2030. 
  • Invest in 10,000 New Energy Apprentices and a New Energy Skills Program. 
  • Work with large businesses to provide greater transparency on their climate-related risks and opportunities. 
  • Re-establish leadership by restoring the role of the Climate Change Authority, while keeping decision-making and accountability with government and introducing new annual Parliamentary reporting by the Minister. 

One week ahead of polling day, ten of Australia’s leading climate scientists were approached by The Sydney Morning Herald for their assessment of the major parties policies. Professor Bill Hare, creator of the Climate Action Tracker website and frequent expert at AEGN events, remarked that Labor’s policy is “timid” but significantly better than the Coalition’s.

The Greens

Species extinction 

The Greens took a policy position of zero species extinctions by 2030 to the election. This includes a commitment to invest $24.4 billion over the next decade, including by restoring wildlife habitat and planting 2 billion trees by 2030.

National environment laws and programs 

The Greens committed to establishing stronger national environmental laws and an “independent watchdog to enforce them”.  

The party also committed to restoring rivers to a swimmable condition by 2030 and to reinvigorate the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.  

The Greens have a comprehensive environmental policy platform:

End native forest logging 

The logging of Australia’s native forests would become a thing of the past under the Greens’ policy. And the party would invest $70 million to develop and implement a plan to support communities to benefit from genuinely sustainable plantation timber.  

Support Indigenous Rangers 

The Greens’ policy includes a $767 million commitment to expand First Nations ranger programs and Indigenous Protected Areas. The policy also commits the party to “introduce strong laws that protect First Nations people’s tangible and intangible heritage, like sites of significance, traditional knowledge and science, intellectual property, ancestral remains, totems, symbols, and artistic works”.

Climate change 

The Greens have a comprehensive climate change policy platform. Climate Analytics states that the Greens’ climate policies are in keeping with confining warming to 1.5 degrees.  

Below are the key points of the policy, particularly those that are significantly different to the Australian Labor Party: 

  • Ban the construction of new coal, oil and gas infrastructure, and phase out the mining, burning and export of thermal coal by 2030. 
  • End subsidies to coal, oil and gas corporations — estimated at over $10 billion each year — and reinvest the money into the clean energy transition. 
  • Implement a carbon price and levy on climate pollution Australia exports. 
  • Ban all political donations from the mining and resources sector (and other dirty industries).  
  • Reach 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 and create a publicly owned non-profit power retailer. 
  • Put an extra $25 billion into rail and bus services and $500 million per year into making cycling and walking safe and accessible and connecting people from the cities to outer suburbs and regions.  

Invest in climate resilience  

The Greens have responded to the 2019/20 bushfires and more recent flooding by announcing a significant investment in climate resilience. The package costs $19.7 billion and includes: 

  • creating 4700 jobs to construct the infrastructure and provide the services that will keep communities safe from the impacts of the climate crisis 
  • increasing natural disaster preparedness funding to $600 million a year to help local communities build and upgrade critical infrastructure that reduces flood and cyclone impacts
  • funding $7.8 billion of renovation and home-building grants over the decade to make sure homes are resilient against floods and cyclones.

Teal independents

The so-called “teal” independents are not a political party and do not share an exact policy platform. That said, the teal independents have all listed action on climate change and integrity in politics as their key policy priorities.  

Zali Steggall OAM, MP for Warringah, who was elected to Parliament in 2019 as the first of the teal independents, has already introduced a Climate Change Bill to Parliament. The Bill forms part of a comprehensive suite of policies that would put Australia on track to reduce emissions by approximately 60 per cent by 2030. Climate Analytics states that the emissions reductions targets proposed by Zali Steggall are in keeping with confining warming to 1.5 degrees. 

A snapshot of other policies included in Zali Steggall’s policy package include: 

  • committing to an orderly transition to 80 per cent renewable energy by 2030
  • committing to no new coal or gas developments
  • reforming the National Building Standards by introducing requirements to improve energy efficiency and reducing emissions intensity of building to net zero by 2050 
  • supporting a minimum 76 per cent target of new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030 
  • implementing an “Australian Vehicle Carbon Dioxide Standard” requiring manufacturers to import vehicles with lower emissions over time, reaching net zero by 2035 
  • establishing an “Electrifying Industry Fund” to help industry shift to renewable electricity and feedstock 
  • investing in new and existing mechanisms to support landowners to store carbon in the landscape
  • banning native forest logging to protect carbon stocks 

There are some slight but important differences in the policy positions of the independents, and you can view them below:  

It is thanks to the tireless efforts of hundreds of thousands of Australians taking action, and the support of a growing network of environment and climate philanthropists, that Australia is now positioned to act in line with what the science says we must do to ensure a safe planet. 

Daisy Barham, Environmental Philanthropy Manager


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