Ousted: Australia's Anti-Environment Prime Minister

After Australia’s far right prime minister turned off just about everyone in the country, he was ousted this week by his party and replaced by moderate conservative, Malcolm Turnbull.

Whether it be social issues, human rights or environment and climate change, Tony Abbott took his right-wing views too far afield even for conservatives. Turnbull will remain in power until next year’s national election, and unfortunately doesn’t plan major policy revisions before then. 

"He’s told the media that he’s not going to improve the abysmal climate targets, despite what he’s previously said. He’s not going to legislate marriage equality. And he’s also backed all the measures in the budget, that’s the GP tax, $100,000 degrees, cuts to pensions, and cuts to schools and hospitals," moans George Wright, national campaign director for the Australian Labour Party.

Despite global criticism of Abbott’s weak climate targets – which would cut emissions 26-28% below 2005 peak levels by 2030, that will likely remain. He won’t re-introduce Australia’s carbon tax or cap-and-trade system (which was supposed to link with Europe’s this year), but he may support returning the national Renewable Energy Target to previous levels, since the 25% cut infuriated voters, according to the press (Abbott wanted it cut more).

In fact, Turnbull’s support for cap-and-trade was a major reason he lost against Abbott last time around.

Amazingly, a study shows that Australia’s government has been exaggerating greenhouse gas emissions for years so that it could meet weak targets of lowering emissions 5% by 2020.

Latest Abbott Shenangigans

In July, Abbott ordered the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (which he earlier tried to eliminate altogether) to stop financing any new wind and small solar projects. 

This was the last straw – Australia’s solar industry vowed to oust him from office. "If the Abbott government is returned and has control of the Senate, our industry is finished," John Grimes, CEO of Australian Solar Council, told Guardian Australia. 

Australia PM Abbott

Within a year of Abbott’s 2013 election, Australia’s investments in clean energy projects fell 70%, according to BNEF, after dismantling the country’s progressive policies: he immediately  scrapped the Climate Commission – which informs the public on  climate change (and was forced to resurrect it); repealed the carbon tax (which was working well, cutting emissions) and cap-and-trade and forced through a steep cut in the  national Renewable Energy Target (not steep enough, says Abbott).

Oh yes, and he also repealed a tax on mining. That’s because Abbott’s priority has been to expand coal mining, approving huge new projects that together will produce an amount of coal equal to Germany’s total emissions, says The Guardian.

After a court blocked the largest coal mine, Abbott repealed the law that allows citizens to challenge large developments in court.

Meanwhile, even utility AGL – Australia’s biggest polluter – announced it won’t finance or build any new coal plants unless outfitted with capture carbon technology, and will not extend the life of existing power plants that run on coal. Renewable energy now provides 17% of AGL’s power, including development of the nation’s largest solar project, the 100 MW Nyngan Solar Plant.

"The last two years has been the most frustrating in my 21-year career in renewables. I’ve never seen anything as bad as this, nothing as evil in terms of policymaking," Tobi Geiger, managing director of wind developer WestWind, told The Guardian.

As in the US, the fossil fuel industry, media mogul Rupert Murdoch and conservative politicians have been working overtime to misinform the public about climate change and lash out against environmental groups for wanting to crush the economy. 

Read our article, Australia Crushes Its Renewable Energy Industry.

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