The consequences of climate change continue to affect Australia. The country has voted through its first climate change bill in ten years, but the law has been heavily criticized and is considered an ambitious but hollow proposal. Australia could take a much greater responsibility for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, say several actors.
Heat waves, storms and droughts are some of the consequences of climate change that Australia knows very well. Violent forest fires have forced both people and animals to leave their homes. Floods have caused great destruction and washed away life, security and hope for a future. Despite this, the climate issue has for a long time been stagnant on the political front in Australia, and the focus has instead been on other issues related to the economy, health and migration. But in September 2022, the incumbent government voted through the first climate change legislation in a decade – a change to the law that has been both praised and criticized.
To reach net zero emissions by 2050
The government's legislative amendment, Climate change bills, establishes that the country must reduce its emissions by at least 43 percent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. The Act will also serve as advice on how Australia should act in relation to climate change.
The government can decide for itself which approach is considered most appropriate to reach the ultimate goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The law also gives power to the country's authority for climate change to monitor and review the government's compliance with these goals with annual reports. The law requires that government authorities and other actors within industrial and the energy sector follows these goals.
"Legislating these targets provides clarity and certainty for investors and energy market participants and will help stabilize our energy system," Australia's climate change minister said. --Chris Bowen, after the climate act had been voted through in September.
Criticism of the law
Australia's climate law has been welcomed with great positivity and hope by business and the environmental movement, and by criticism from both scientists and climate activists who are calling on the government to do more.
The criticism relates to the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 43 percent by 2030. In order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, researchers, among other things, believe that Australia needs to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions significantly more than that. Australia is a high-income country and has high carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, the country should take greater responsibility than low-income countries to reduce emissions and switch to sustainable alternatives within the next few years, say the researchers.
The criticism is also about that lagförslaget has a clear end goal, but deficiencies in concrete documents to reduce Australia's climate impact. Critics believe that the government needs to present a more clear and concrete plan for the goal to eventually achieve net zero emissions.
Researchers have also criticized the law's sustainability. The Climate Act provides the authority for climate change a central role in the law's implementation, follow-up and advice. But the law does not ensure its own survival. With new elections come new governments, and with new governments there are the risk of the law being deprioritised in both policy and budget.
The consequences of climate change are already visible today
Climate change is already affecting Australia today. Record-high temperatures of up to 50 degrees are life-threatening for both people and animals in the country. Flooding destroys cities as well as farmland, and the rising sea level threatens to swallow parts of the country under water. IPCC, the UN's climate panel, highlighted in its latest climate report that if all countries adopted Australia's climate policy and level of emissions, we would be heading for three degrees of warming – a temperature difference far beyond what we would be able to adapt to. The organization Climate Council Australia believes that in the last ten years Australia has had a weak and inadequate climate policy.
- Taking slow and inadequate action, as our federal government is doing, will lead to more harm to more people. Climate change and its consequences are accelerating, and our response should match the scale of the situation with urgency and focus, said Climate Council Australia in its investigation of the IPCC climate report for Australia.