It is one thing having climate as one of the big issues in an election, but you cannot use it as your mainstay – that’s the takeaway from the Australian elections, which left the Labour party and Green, out in the wilderness, after they emphasized, perhaps over-emphasized climate action as part of their campaign to unseat the existing Liberal National coalition.
The final numbers are not even in yet as we write this piece, but 77 seats have gone to the Coalition, and only 76 are needed for a majority. Every poll that was taken up to the election, and even exit polls, had Labour ahead with 52% of the vote or better. Labout did very well,. But it is now clear that it does not have enough seats to form a government, and its leader has now resigned, to give the next leader at period in opposition getting ready for the next election.
For people who care about climate change or renewables, this is a terrible outcome, simply because the public perception is that coal miners jobs need to be saved, despite the fact that embracing renewables is certain to create more jobs than mining could ever save. Australia is already set on a path to leave coal power plants behind, but could now reverse that decision, or at least put it on hold for a while, so it is likely that mining only really survives if the coal is sold overseas, and most probably very cheaply, in places like China and Indonesia. Which of course will not save coal jobs at all, unless the government subsidizes coal mining, which there will be calls for it to do.
But the big lesson here is that health, wealth and taxation, and it’s “the economy stupid,” along with the personalities of the candidates themselves, remain the deciding factors in all elections, and if you do not have these right, then having an aggressive climate plan will not save you.
It could well be that health, abortion, the trade war with China and gun laws will be on the agenda in the US elections next year, and climate change will certainly be among the issues, but it is the whole package, including the personality of the man or woman who delivers it, which need to be right if anyone among the democrats wants to actually beat Donald Trump to the White House. And given Trump’s populist actions, his calls to “Make America great again,” and his twitter rhetoric brought him the last election, there is every chance he will get another five years in office if all a rival candidate does is talk about climate.