By Nicholas D’Alonzo

The 2022 Australian Federal election has gone down as Australia’s climate election, with the Greens winning seats in inner city Brisbane, and “Teal” independents (part of the “Teal” Climate 200 supported candidates) winning in Liberal heartland throughout Australia.

Labor has a plan for big investments in renewable energy to help turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower. However, it looks like fossil fuel extraction might continue unimpeded, even supported, by the new Labor government. Labor still receives funding from fossil fuel companies and is lobbied by these companies for continued support. It is now the role of climate activists to keep people’s attention on these fossil fuel projects and keep in mind that voting is not enough. If we all want to live in a clean, green, solar powered Australia: that means we also have to stop fossil fuel exports.

Since the Morrison Government was elected in 2019, Australia has been hit with a number of natural disasters: drought, record temperatures, floods, and of course the deeply traumatic bushfires. However, climate change is such a large and all-encompassing issue that it can be hard to keep it in the focus of people’s minds. Particularly with the worldwide impact of CoronaVirus and the constant concerns about the economy and the cost of living. Throughout the election campaign, climate change was often in the background, a question here and there, but it always seemed to be more about Morrison’s lack of leadership during crises rather than the causes of those crises themselves.

The 2019 “Stop Adani Convoy” gathered a lot of attention, but when the results came it appeared to have backfired. In contrast to the 2019 election, climate activists in 2022 went out and talked to people. I am sure many of the readers were out door knocking or at polling booths, or just had many difficult conversations with friends and family. We are still attempting to stop new polluting fossil fuel projects, of course. But this election, climate activists did a better job of providing an alternate vision for Australia. Incredible strides have been made in just the last three years when it comes to renewable energy, and particularly energy storage technology. This has provided a clearer path to a green future, and perhaps the climate movement communicated this alternative future better this time.

When election night came we were still worried. 2019 was a great disappointment to many of us, but this time the hard work did pay off!

A clear call for more ambitious climate action was heard far and wide. It was in many respects coming from unusual places; the high income areas of Australia’s cities usually vote strongly Liberal, but this election these seats fell to ‘Teal’ independents. These electorates include people that will be affected the least by climate change. However, high income earners also have the luxury of being forward thinking about the kind of Australia they want to see, rather than being worried about the here and now. Central Brisbane was different again – a refuge for many young people, as the rest of Queensland is considered very conservative. It had been devastated by “1-in-100-year” floods TWICE in a DECADE, showing that the impacts of climate change are already here. Without a Teal independent, people chose to vote Green to get the message out: loud and clear climate action now!

There are many positives when it comes to Labor’s climate policies. They have a strong focus on renewable energy, and are promoting electric cars, green industry and green mining in Australia. However, we might say that their ‘43% reduction in emissions by 2030’ goal lacks ambition, as Labor’s plan fails to address rising pollution from the fossil fuel industry. Labor’s 43% goal is in line with similar economies such as Canada, South Korea and Japan, and ideally, we hope that there might be some momentum gained by simply starting the process of the transition that will hopefully overshoot Labor’s goals. However, there remains a huge blind spot: allowing new fossil fuel projects to go ahead.

350 Boorloo Perth is committed to trying to stop Woodside’s Scarborough Gas project, and the Labor government has already said that it will allow the project to go ahead. Labor is also supportive of the Beetaloo Gas Fracking in the NT, Greenfield Gas in New South Wales and coal mines in Queensland. New Resources Minister, Madeleine King, has perpetuated the gas industry’s lie that LNG is needed to prevent coal expansion in developing countries. This is not true, as renewable energy is now close to cost parity with coal-based grids in most countries, gas is no longer needed. Woodside has donated $2 million to political parties over the past 20 years, and other fossil fuel donations will be declared once the counting is complete. Soon, fossil fuel lobbyists will return to Canberra and pressure the Labor government into continuing their support for new fossil fuel projects, even if it is clear that Australian people want climate action – that includes a reduction in fossil fuel exports.

Overall, the 2022 election leaves me optimistic. We in the climate movement were able to reach people and communicate our vision of a future cleaner, greener, solar powered Australia. Labor’s climate change policies are a step in the right direction and will greatly increase the amount of renewable energy used in Australia. To continue to be optimistic, we can easily overshoot their unambitious goals.

However, there remains the danger of complacency. We might have been able to get people to pay attention during election time, but we need to keep people focused and motivated to fight the next fight. That fight is with the fossil fuel exporters which are continuing to expand their extraction, continuing to put delicate environments at risk and continuing to lie about their importance to the Australian and global economies. It is our role as activists to tear down these myths and make it clear to people that a cleaner, greener Australia is not achieved until we stop exporting fossil fuels to the world.