CANBERRA, Australia — After years of being denounced as a climate change laggard, Australia reversed course on Thursday, with the lower house of parliament passing a bill committing the government to cut carbon emissions by at least 43 percent from 2005 levels by in 2030. and reach net zero by 2050.
With critical support from the Australian Greens now in place, the new Labor government is expected to push the legislation through the Senate in a few weeks.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he would put the country “on the right side of history”. The 43% pledge brings Australia closer to Canada, South Korea and Japan, while still falling short of pledges from the United States, the European Union and Britain.
“The impact of climate change is real. We need an answer that is real,” Mr Albanese told reporters on Thursday. “The government offers this.”
In Parliament, Climate Secretary Chris Bowen said simply: “This is a good day for our country.”
But the pledge — which Mr Albanese campaigned for as Labor challenged the long-standing Conservative coalition in May’s federal election — is widely seen as long overdue and just the start of a vital economic transition in a country that is the world’s third largest -Largest exporter of fossil fuels, after Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Amanda McKenzie, who runs the Climate Council, an association of scientists and community leaders who have long called for Australia to do more on climate change, called the climate change bill a “springboard” that would require the government to be held accountable when creating a framework for investment in renewable energy sources.
Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at the Australia Institute, a non-partisan think tank, described the bill as “a giant leap forward”, while pointing out there was still a long way to go.
The government has refused to accept proposals for Australia to scrap any new coal and natural gas projects – a major point of contention among a number of independent members of parliament who won seats in mainly conservative constituencies on their pledge to aggressively attack climate change.
Mr Albanese and his Labor government also rejected a separate Greens amendment to cut emissions by 75 per cent by 2030.
Greens leader Adam Budd has repeatedly said the government’s lower target will lead to ruined crops, devastating natural disasters and the collapse of the Great Barrier Reef, which will continue to struggle under current warming trends, according to a report which was published on Thursday. by Australian marine scientists.
They found that parts of the reef had begun to recover from a series of catastrophic bleaching events in recent years, but predicted that the world-famous ecosystem will face frequent and long-lasting heat waves unless there is “immediate global action on climate change. “
“That’s science,” Mr Budd said. “We’re not doing this to try to stop the pollution a little bit. We’re doing this to try to prevent climate change from becoming a chain reaction.”
He described his support for the climate bill as a first step in pushing Australia to do more, and many climate experts say the country can only meet its international commitments if it stops approving new coal and gas projects and finally close the ones that already exist.
“They have to deal with Albanese’s unsavory narrative that our coal and natural gas are somehow greener than others, and their drug dealer defense that if we don’t sell it, then others will,” Robyn said. Eckersley, climate change policy expert. at the University of Melbourne. “This is devastating and a direct shirking of Australia’s responsibilities.”