Australia has a new prime minister today, and climate change is a big part of the reason why. Julia Gillard replaced the once-incredibly-popular Kevin Rudd after the latter’s popularity took a dramatic tumble.
Rudd was hugely undermined by his failure to push through an emissions trading scheme after making huge political capital with his ‘tough on climate change’ stance. As a general election approaches later this year, his Labor party decided he had to go and voted in Gillard to take his place.
Australia’s first ever female prime minister affirmed her commitment to tackling climate change, but immediately came under fire from the main opposition party, who said she was going to continue Rudd’s delaying over an emissions trading scheme (Sydney Morning Herald).
“It’s my intention to lead a government that does more to harness the wind and the sun and the new emerging technologies. I will do this because I believe in climate change,” said Gillard in her first speech as PM (transcript, via The Age).
“I believe human beings contribute to climate change and it is most disappointing to me, as it is to millions of Australians, that we do not have a price on carbon, and in the future we will need one. If elected as Prime Minister [in the forthcoming election], I will re-prosecute the case for a carbon price at home and abroad. I will do that as global economic conditions improve and as our economy continues to strengthen.”
Most damaging of all was the perception that Rudd, who once described climate change as one of the biggest “moral dilemmas of our time,” had abandoned his commitment to being green. Some of his most ardent supporters, particularly young voters, were horrified when he announced in April that he would shelve an emissions-trading scheme that had secured him many votes back in 2007.
Rudd’s support began to slide in April after he shelved his carbon trading system, the centerpiece of his plan to tackle climate change, which he called the greatest “moral challenge” of our time. He then proposed the 40 percent tax on the “super profits” of resource projects in Australia, the world’s biggest shipper of coal and iron ore, and refused to back down even after members of his own party objected.
Prime Minister Gillard may not have shown much interest in climate action yet, but she has demonstrated herself to be a good negotiator, is open to negotiating with the Greens, and is clearly interested in power. When climate failure has claimed the last four leaders – Prime Ministers Rudd and Howard and Opposition Leaders Turnbull and Nelson – Prime Minister Gillard would be well advised to come to talk to the Greens about real climate action.”
Green party politician Christine Milne (Reuters).