Federal election 2022: Labor and Coalition climate change policies both breach the Paris Agreement. So what does the science say?

Climate change has sharpened as a central issue this federal election.

According to the ABC’s Vote Compass, more people list it as their number one issue this election than any other topic, so if you’re one of those factoring the climate into your vote, it’s worth knowing what’s on offer.

You might want to first consider this government’s climate report card since it was elected in 2013.

It was then that Australia’s notorious “climate wars” really kicked into gear.

The Liberal-National government came to power with Tony Abbott’s promise to “ax” the country’s Emissions Trading Scheme, or “carbon price”.

And Abbott went about doing that, and more, trying to dismantle most of the agencies set up to deal with climate change.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott came to power on promise to “ax” the carbon tax. (AAP: Alan Porritt, file photo)

The wars didn’t end there. A string of emissions policies were mooted by the government and its advisors, before being dropped – sometimes through a change of the party’s leader.

The resulting policy inconsistency has even caught the attention of the world’s climate scientists, with the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report – a sober and entirely apolitical document released in March this year – identifying Australia’s “lack of consistent policy direction” as a ” key risk “for the country as it navigates the impacts of climate change.

But the climate wars were brewing even before Abbott was elected. John Howard’s Liberal-National government had promised to introduce an emissions trading scheme before it was voted out in 2007. When Rudd’s Labor government tried to introduce one, it was blocked by the crossbench, in part for not being ambitious enough. Then, when Gillard’s Labor government did introduce one, it was soon booted out of office.

Nearly 10 years after the climate wars kicked up a gear with this Liberal-National government’s election, Australia will decide whether to give the Coalition another shot.

So would another three years under Prime Minister Scott Morrison deliver the ambition and consistency desired by the world’s climate scientists – or would things be any different on Anthony Albanese’s watch?

The Coalition’s climate plan

The parts of the Rudd-Gillard government’s climate apparatus that it didn’t dismantle (like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) are now central to the Coalition’s climate pitch.

Scott Morrison has wrangled his party to support the long-term goal of getting our total greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, although there are vocal members of the Liberal and National parties that have expressed opposition to the goal.

To get there, the Morrison government has rolled all the existing efforts of government agencies into what it’s calling its “Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan”.

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