In a warning for all fossil-friendly leaders globally, Tony Abbott’s blind support for coal and cynical inaction on climate change are among factors behind him being unceremoniously turfed out of his job this week.
Challenged by former Environment Minister and previous Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, Abbott was voted out by his party after Turnbull seized on his and the Liberal Right’s failure to develop and sell a credible economic policy given their “extraordinary gusts of hubris” and “feckless machismo”.
Eyes are now turning to Turnbull’s vision for the future, and how he will separate his stated desire for a modern, nimble Australia that embraces disruption (such as renewables), from the Abbott Government’s backward-looking coal wedlock.
“The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves. We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it. We will ensure that all Australians understand that their government recognises the opportunities of the future and is putting in place the policies and the plans to enable them to take advantage of it.” – New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Turnbull wants an Australia that embraces disruptive technology and is smart enough to take advantage of it. That is a clear sign of support for renewables and a just transition away from coal, but how he will deal with the Coalition’s deeply ingrained climate denial and renewable bloodlust is unclear.
Despite recognising the importance of action on climate change, being a supporter of emissions trading, and declaring Tony Abbott’s “Direct Action” policy “bullshit”, he has in the past won major transitional concessions for carbon-intensive industries, and has already declared that he is happy with Australia’s current, inadequate, emissions reduction target.
All up, Turnbull is expected to move cautiously on climate. Renewable policy is unlikely to be further weakened; current climate policy will remain – for now – though it could be “dialed up”; climate denying elements such as Tony Abbott’s “business advisor” Maurice Newman could be ejected from key advisory roles; and the risk of Australian continuing to be a blocker at UN climate talks is now somewhat reduced.
Image: Malcolm Turnbull & Tesla Model S (Malcolm Turnbull)