2022 – The Guardian view on Australia’s elections: Workers must step up their efforts on climate | Editorial Board

IIn his election night victory speech last Saturday, Labour’s Anthony Albanese pledged to turn Australia into a “renewable energy superpower” and end a decade of “climate wars”. That was good news. Under right-wing coalition governments – an enduring alliance of liberal and nationalist parties – Australia was seen as the climate pariah on the world stage. The new prime minister will have to do little to improve his country’s image.

From a global perspective, Albanese’s main policy is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Albanese’s goal is not as ambitious as that of the United Kingdom or the European Union. But it is a marked improvement over the previous administration and will be well received in neighboring Pacific nations tired of seeing the existential threats posed by rising sea levels in Canberra. The coalition government led by Scott Morrison has pledged that Australia will reach net zero by 2050, which at best would have reduced climate emissions by 28% by the end of the decade. But remarkably, there have been no new policies under this administration to achieve this distant goal.

On the climate, Labor offered Australian voters reform, not revolution. This humble approach was born out of bitter experience. The party suffered a shock defeat in 2019. In this election, opponents of the coalition succeeded in demonizing Labour’s bold environmental policies. This time the new prime minister was more cautious. Employment has few specific policies to reduce emissions from agriculture. Mr. Albanese offered slightly more onerous goals than Mr. Morrison to decarbonize the industry. True, he had some great ideas. Labor’s main policy of investing in a public company investing $20bn (£11bn) in modernizing the power grid – and making use of renewable energy supplies – is noteworthy but comes without controversial measures such as carbon prices.

For the rest of the world, Labor’s general lack of ambition is not good enough. Nor for the Australians who have suffered from bushfires, floods, droughts and bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef. Mr. Albanese’s policies put him on track to meet the 2016 Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping temperatures higher to 2°C than pre-industrial levels. But the world has evolved. At Cop26, leaders pledged to limit global warming to 1.5°C. If Mr. Albanese wants to host Cop29 in 2024, he will have to support more aggressive emissions reduction plans for greens and “blue-green” independents. The elevation shows that the environment is not just a left-wing issue.

Mr. Morrison lost because he did too little and not so much for the climate. He hid behind claims that Australia is responsible for only 1% of the world’s carbon emissions. If you add fossil fuel exports, Australia is responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gases. The country has more than 100 new pipeline gas and coal mining projects. Climate analysis says ending reliance on coal for electricity generation by 2030 is the most important contribution Australia can make to global efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Business plans for the natural gas industry, a powerful lobby within the party, remain murky. Mr. Albanese’s government must find ways for communities that currently economically benefit from fossil fuels to similarly benefit from renewable energy. If you succeed, you will earn the gratitude of the country – and the world.