Climate action the real election winner

Following a wave of success in the Federal Election, the Greens’ Petrie candidate Will Simon says the party is “clearly a third force in Australian politics”.

“It’s no surprise that where the Greens won three new seats in Queensland were all areas on the Brisbane River and all got directly hit by it (the 2022 floods),” he said.

Based on the vote count on June 8, the Greens’ votes had risen by a staggering 143.96% in Queensland and 59.75% nationwide since the 2013 election.

The Climate Council found a significant correlation between electorates affected by the Black Summer Bushfires, record breaking 2022 Floods and voting behavior towards parties campaigning for stronger climate relief.

Dr Steven Crimp, a Research Fellow and Climate Applications Scientist at ANU Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions, said the floods and fires had a “significant impact on people’s concern”.

“I think unfortunately the series of extreme events that we have experienced and will continue to experience, will start to convince the general public that climate change is here, it’s now, and it’s not an issue that’s off into the future,” he said.

Electorates Affected by the Black Summer Bushfires and 2022 Flood Disaster and their Election Results

The Greens campaigned for a stronger legislative framework that would address the climate crisis as a priority responsibility of the Federal Government, and aimed to reach net zero or net negative greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 or sooner.

“I think people were more receptive once they heard that the Greens have a plan to transition out of coal and gas while also protecting our workers and defending our planet,” Mr Simon said. “What I think has changed is that they (voters) are hearing more comprehensive plans to really tackle it (climate change).”

The Australian Greens received their best result in history on May 21, with South-east Queensland electing Greens MPs Stephen Bates for Brisbane, Elizabeth Watson-Brown for Ryan, and Max Chandler-Mather for Griffith. Greens leader Adam Bandt was re-elected in Melbourne.

“I think the demographics of people voting the Greens is definitely changing and the perception that we are a party just for the environment has shifted…we are a party of economic justice and environment which people are now believing to be more compatible than ever,” Mr Simon said.

Australia’s climate policies were ranked last out of 64 countries and 59th in the Climate Change Performance Index unveiled at the COP26 summit in Glasgow in 2021, when the Australian Government confirmed its long-term emissions reduction plan aiming for net zero emissions by 2050. No new policies or plans were announced.

This came as no surprise to Australians, with the Morrison Government’s historical lack of responsibility on climate action.

The Liberal Party saw a 4.29% drop in votes nationally since 2019 and a 15.75% decrease nationwide since the 2013 election.

Dr Crimp said he thought there was a growing concern about the level of inaction that climate change had received by the Coalition Government, and he was not shocked by the decrease in the votes for the Liberal Party.

Based on the current vote count the ALP has had a national vote increase of 10.21% since the 2013 election.

“I think these changes and swings that we’re seeing are because the incumbent government are really in touch with the public,” Dr Crimp said.

The Australian Labor Party has committed to decreasing emissions by 43% by 2030 and aim to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“I believe that the new government certainly has a mandate, and it certainly has been much more receptive to the idea of more rigorous targets,” Dr Crimp said. “What is still unclear is how collaborative they will be in their approach.

“I think it’s very hard for major parties who are supposed to have a national remit to make policies that are regionally specific. If the incumbent government takes a more collaborative approach, it’ll bring in a lot broader set of views and we may end up with more progressive policies.”

Mr Simon is hopeful that the Greens will be a powerful voice in the House of Representatives but thinks that they will hold most of their power in the Senate.

“I think that’s where the real leverage is going to be held and the fact that the Greens are going to be pushing for tougher action on climate change,” he said. “I think we’re on the cusp of something better.”