Australian carbon reduction policies scrapped after political backlash
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Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has removed carbon reduction obligations from his flagship energy policy in order to prevent a revolt by conservative politicians.
Australia removed requirements from its National Energy Guarantee plan that would have mandated that greenhouse emissions from its power industry decrease by 26 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Turnbull conceded that he could not get legislation through the House of Representatives, where his conservative coalition holds only a single-seat majority.
As Australia’s east coast suffers through its worst drought in 60 years, he said he would seek to legislate emission reductions in the future.
“Even with strong support in the party room, if a small number of people are not prepared to vote with the government on a measure, then it won’t get passed,” Turnbull told reporters.
He added that his government would move legislation to reduce emissions when it had sufficient support from its own party. Despite the impasse, Turnbull said the government was committed to its Paris accord commitments.
The decision drew immediate scorn from critics, who dismissed suggestions that a reduction could be achieved without mandated legislation.
“The announcement is a setback for global action to reduce carbon emissions,” said Will Steffen, a climate scientist at the Australian National University.
“Australia is a global lagger in meeting its emission targets,” he added. “Independent research shows emissions are creeping up over the last three years. I’m very sceptical that without immediate action Australia can meet its commitments.”
Some politicians, including former prime minister Tony Abbott, argue that the government should be focusing on cutting electricity prices instead of cutting emissions.
Abbott deposed Turnbull as leader of the conservative Liberal Party in 2009 over differences in energy policy. However, Turnbull subsequently ousted Abbott as prime minister in 2015 in a leadership ballot of government politicians concerned by the government’s poor opinion polling.
The government has trailed the centre-left opposition Labour Party in most opinion polls since the last election in 2016. Australians are due to hold a general election early next year.
A Fairfax-Ipsos poll published on Monday showed that 55 per cent of voters surveyed supported Labour and only 45 per cent supported the government.
Next month, Turnbull will become Australia’s longest-serving prime minister since Howard, having held the office for three years and four days.