‘Australia votes for climate action’: How the world framed Labor’s victory as a win for the planet
Although politicians campaigned heavily on the cost of living, climate action was the key focus of overseas observers. Photo: AAP
When the rest of the world watched on as Labor won the federal election, one thing was at the top of people’s minds: Climate action.
It was something Anthony Albanese reiterated during his victory speech.
“Together we can end the climate wars,” the new Prime Minister said on Saturday night, pledging to turn Australia into a “renewable energy superpower”.
On Monday, Mr Albanese said his meeting with world leaders at the Quad will “send a message to the world that there’s a new government in Australia and it’s a government that represents a change, in terms of the way that we deal with the world on issues like climate change”.
That’s exactly the angle foreign media took, too, even if Mr Albanese didn’t tout his climate ambitions on the campaign trail.
Labor had promised an emissions-reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030. It’s a greater reduction than the Coalition’s commitment of 26 to 28 per cent, but still falls short of what many experts have called for.
The new cross bench – dominated by so-called ‘teal’ independents and the Greens – could push the government for tougher action.
Independents such as Zali Steggall, Kylea Tink and Monique Ryan want a 60 per cent reduction by 2030, while the Greens have called for a 75 per cent reduction within the same time frame.
Further afield, here’s how some of the world’s top leaders and thinkers reacted.
Western leaders generally welcomed the opportunity to co-operate on climate action with an Albanese Labor government.
Although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared many values with Scott Morrison, the two differed when it came to climate action.
Boris Johnson was among the first world leaders to congratulate Anthony Albanese. Photo: Getty
The British PM hinted at this in his congratulatory message to Mr Albanese.
“As thriving like-minded democracies we work every day to make the world a better, safer, greener and more prosperous place,” he said.
His message was echoed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Our countries are close friends – and I’m looking forward to building on that with you, moving forward with progressive ideas, tackling climate change, and delivering results for people in both our countries,” Mr Trudeau posted on Twitter.
Others opted to give constructive criticism.
One of the key architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement was former French environment minister Laurence Tubiana, who has repeatedly criticised Australia’s track record of climate diplomacy.
Former French environment minister Laurence Tubiana is one of the key architects of the Paris Agreement. Photo: Getty
“Australia has an important role to play in the climate fight: A role it had long forgotten on the international scene,” she said on Sunday.
“The new Prime Minister will need to address the climate elephant in the room and show the leadership needed to protect the planet by phasing out fossil fuels and accelerating the rollout of renewables.”
Not everyone focused on the climate, though.
In France, outgoing foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomed the demise of Mr Morrison after Australia ripped up its submarine contract with the French last year.
“I can’t stop myself from saying that the defeat of Morrison suits me very well,” he told reporters at a press conference on Sunday.
Most Pacific leaders gave Mr Albanese the usual congratulations on his election win.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was one of the few to specifically mention climate action.
“Our people’s shared future depends on it,” he wrote.
But it was the former leaders who really highlighted how Australia is now at a climate action crossroads.
“It is no secret that I have been disappointed with the attitudes of the previous Australian government towards the Pacific on a number of fronts, including climate change,” said Kiribati’s former president Anote Tong.
“My hope is that we will see stronger and more urgent climate action from the incoming government, including a more ambitious emissions reduction target, ramped-up support for climate-vulnerable communities in the Pacific and, most importantly, a commitment to no new coal and gas projects in Australia.”
Former Kiribati Prime Minister Anote Tong hopes an Albanese government will co-operate more closely with the Pacific on climate action. Photo: Getty
He also called for real action rather than “greenwashing” and political stunts.
“As I previously commented, the Albanese government’s plans to bid for an Australian COP in co-operation with the Pacific are welcome,” Mr Tong said.
“However, this cannot be used to greenwash Australia’s inadequate climate policies. Australia must make genuine commitments to achieve large reductions in both domestic and exported emissions.”
Meanwhile, Tuvalu’s former prime minister Enele Sopoaga said he “can only hope that this new Australian government will make a radical shift towards strong and urgent climate action and genuine support for the Pacific”.
Tuvalu is one of several Pacific atoll nations that are at serious risk from rising sea levels. Photo: Getty
“This would include radical new Australian targets for emissions reduction under the Paris Agreement, no new coal or gas, and an ongoing commitment to supporting Pacific Island nations as we face the brunt of climate impacts,” Mr Sopoaga added.
Kiribati and Tuvalu are two of the world’s most vulnerable countries with respect to rising sea levels.
Prior to the election, climate policy was one of the key takeaways of international coverage.
With Mr Albanese’s victory and a cross bench dominated by teal independents and Greens, the world’s press zeroed in on what this meant for global climate action.
The New York Times wrote that “Australia’s ‘climate election’ finally arrived”.
The European bureau chief of the state-run China Daily newspaper, Chen Weihua, relentlessly mocked the outgoing PM on Twitter and said that “McCarthyism didn’t save Morrison”.