The ‘seismic shift’, the ‘green wave’, and lots more, have been used to describe the historic formation of a third force in Australian politics. I like to call it the Green Slam because, like a grand slam in tennis, it was such a big political game as well as being the grandest swing we are likely to ever see towards green policy, especially a serious climate policy. It was a stand against the climate deniers, even the moderates who thought they could get away with mild changes that enabled ‘lots of wriggle room’.
So, what does this now mean for Australia?
1. The Green Slam was huge and historic in supporting the priority of climate and this is reverberating around the world. I have had many emails from colleagues on the IPCC and other academics, especially in America, and they are greatly heartened. It sends a very strong signal that Trump-style politics does not work. And it suggests that the climate agenda globally is likely to regard Australia as a major contributor, not a laggard.
2. The Green Slam will impact the Liberals most. They have weaponised climate for far too long due to Trump style politics starting with Tony Abbott. They were so worried about not losing people to the extreme right that they missed the flight of women and youth towards the Greens and teals. They should have seen this coming when Zali Stegall replaced Abbott but now it’s indelibly written into the history of the Liberal Party as they watched their core urban support base decimated in one night.
3. The Green Slam will undermine the media who did not see this coming. Their focus on gotcha questions to the two parties left the Greens and teals to quietly go about their door knocking and local meetings. This has re-invented politics towards what we always knew in local government elections – you have to talk to people and, when you do, you get the big questions that worry people and they vote for you. The door-knocking was always going to show that climate was the top worry. This was known from surveys but not taken seriously by all the media. Media editors need a big rethink as well as the political losers.
4. The Green Slam must especially impact the Murdoch media empire. Rupert was always a climate denier who endlessly funded climate bullies. Like the Liberals, the Murdoch family is divided and must now change like the Liberals. But they probably won’t.
5. The Green Slam will translate into a dramatic acceleration to decarbonise by industry. This election shows that the green economy is indeed seriously the only future that can now be envisioned. Every industry must now do serious plans to decarbonise. They must now follow what most of the big mining companies and many innovative small companies are doing and learn to make money out of this accelerating agenda – or they are finished.
6. The Green Slam will have its biggest impact on oil and gas projects. They always thought they wouldn’t be the public target while coal was the focus and that advertising campaigns would save them. The dramatic shift in politics which decimated their main shareholder belts across the country, will now flow into every boardroom. Even those fossil fuel companies who think they can survive through exports are going to rapidly face the same issue. Fewer and fewer people will want to invest in big losers. The future has arrived and all new oil and gas projects will join coal as stranded assets.
7. The Green Slam will want to push the new government for a higher target. This is at least the IPCC standard of 50% decline in emissions by 2030. The ALP set up a 43% target and have clearly modelled policies to show they can reach this. Both of these targets will be very hard to reach in a mere 7.5 years as we have been growing continuously for the past decade. But the Green Slam means that the whole country is wanting to give it a decent try. We will need to buckle up and see how to help now we have voted them in.
* By Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University and IPCC Co-ordinating Lead Author
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