Climate policy and the anti-coal movement featured heavily in the recent federal election in Australia as the Liberal National Coalition government was reelected by a narrow majority, confounding both public expectations and the polls.
The Coalition proposed a policy to meet Australia's agreed Paris commitment of a 26% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 through both recent and planned closures of various coal-burning power stations and promised funding of carbon abatement projects at a cost of approximately $3.5 billion. The Labor Party went much further in its anti-coal platform—with a proposal to achieve a 45% reduction in carbon emissions through subsidies for renewable energy leading, which it believed would lead to earlier closure of Australia's aging coal-burning power stations, a policy broadly supported by the Greens and widely expected to help lead the Labor Party to victory in the national election.
By all accounts, the Coalition election victory was delivered by a major and unexpected swing in voter support in the state of Queensland, Australia's largest coal producer. The major issue in Queensland centered on the approval of a proposed new coal mine there that was being delayed by the Queensland state Labor government notwithstanding support for the mine by Queensland's powerful coal mining union. During the election campaign, a former Greens leader and the anti-coal lobby organized a large convoy that traveled from Melbourne and Sydney to rural Queensland to protest the mine, drawing the ire of the surrounding rural communities that rely heavily on mining and resources for jobs. This ire and local support for the coal mine translated into votes for the Coalition in Queensland.
Immediately after the Labor party's election loss, the Queensland government granted final approvals for the mine. However, neither the Coalition's victory nor the governmental approval has deterred the anti-coal activists who are now targeting their protests against the mine at the potential financiers and engineering contractors on the project.
Although ultimately this election did not result in a change to the regulatory status quo, Australia's federal election cycle ensures that climate policy will continue to be extremely contentious until the next election in 2022.
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