Policy Check: Where Do The Major Parties Actually Stand On Climate Change?

After two years of unprecedented environmental disasters in Australia, how will your vote affect the climate crisis?

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Thousands of Australians have plugged their information into ABC’s Vote Compass over the last few weeks, and some interesting results have now emerged.

Climate change, along with the rising cost of living and the economy, was recorded by the ABC as the most important issue for young people voting in this year’s federal election.

But shifting through the political jargon both major parties use when proposing policies about the climate ain’t easy. Here’s an easy breakdown of the differences between the two before you head to the voting booth later this month.

The Coalition

Last year, after a damning report from the IPCC revealed irreversible environmental damage was inevitable, the Australian government finally committed to a net-zero energy target by 2050.

While Australia continues to face criticism about its net-zero plan — the Climate Council says the target is “meaningless without strong and urgent emission cuts this decade” — here’s what the Coalition is proposing in its election policies to combat climate change:

  • $22 billion in low emissions technologies, which they say will “drive over $88 billion of total investment to reduce emissions while growing the economy and creating jobs across Australia”.
  •  Further investment in hydro-electric projects like the Snowy 2.0, which the government touts as “one of the largest pumped hydro projects in the southern hemisphere” and Tasmania’s “Battery of the Nation” pumped-hydroelectric dam.
  • The Coalition will also make “considered and targeted” investments into renewable projects “coming online”, announcing $84 million of funding for microgrids for remote communities.

It’s worth noting despite the commitment to renewables, coal and fossil fuels are still definitely in the mix for the Coalition’s energy plans for the near future. Speaking about a coal mine currently in construction in Olive Grove in Queensland, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said that there are “dozens of new coal projects in the pipeline” for Queensland.

“The Labor-Greens alliance would have Australians believe the coal industry is evil, but in reality it is the mechanism by which we grow our economy and become stronger,” Joyce said in a statement.

You can check out the Liberal party’s full climate change response here.


Labor labels the climate and energy policies that the Coalition released while in government as a decade of mismanagement, and has vowed to set a more ambitious net-zero target while closing the “yawning gap between our current Federal Government and our business community”.

Specifically, the Opposition is promising that a Labor government will play a greater part in stimulating jobs and innovation in the renewable sector while maintaining jobs in existing fossil fuel industries.

Labor is promising in this year’s election to:

  • To introduce a ‘National Electric Vehicle Strategy’ to make electric vehicles cheaper
  • A 43 percent reduction of Australia’s emissions by 2030.
  • The installation of 400 ‘community batteries’, designed to work in tandem with household solar networks, across the country.
  • Roll out 85 solar banks, which are community solar farms that are designed to give the benefits of solar energy to those without private roof-top solar.

However, Labor is giving mixed messages as to what will happen to the fossil fuels industry during this time, and hasn’t outlined how the transition will affect people currently working in the ‘dirty’ energy sector.

The Australian Financial Review reported that Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said that he would “welcome” any new coal projects that pass environmental regulations and are profitable.

You can check out the full list of Labor’s policies here.

The Greens

The Greens are going to the federal election with a climate policy they say is directed at keeping “coal and gas in the ground” while rapidly shifting to renewable energy.

“We are in a climate emergency. It threatens the safety of people, our health, water, ability to grow food, and the air we breathe. The stakes couldn’t be higher,” The Greens state in their policy rationale.

The Greens’ policy for this federal election includes:

  • Large-scale public investment in renewable energy and storage, to replace every coal-fired power plant in the country by 2030.
  • End the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
  • Phasing out the mining, burning and export of thermal coal by 2030.
  • Immediately ban the construction of new coal, oil and gas infrastructure, while promising to help transition mining workers and communities into long term, sustainable industries.

While the Greens are routinely criticised for being a ‘party of protest’, this year they say that their climate policies are fully costed, and can be realised through a “shared power” government with the Labor party.

You can check out the Greens’ complete policy list here.

State Of Emergency

For many voting in this year’s federal election, climate change isn’t a theoretical issue anymore. Voters in areas affected by the NSW Black Summer Bushfires or this year’s east coast floods have had their lives irrevocably changed by the warming climate.

As reported by The Conversation, seven of the twenty-five seats that could decide the fate of the federal election were heavily affected by floods and fires. Independent candidates like Zali Steggall — dubbed ‘teal’ candidates who challenge safe liberal seats with socially progressive policies like climate change — have proven that policies addressing the environment still resonate in conservative areas far from fires and floods.

Whatever issues resonate with you as a voter, you should still consider how your vote will affect Australia’s response to the climate crisis. Because if you don’t think you’ve been impacted by climate change yet, you could be soon.

Photo Credit: Tobias Titz via Getty Images