Election Research: Mind the political gap – voters, business frustrated by inaction on climate change and energy Media Release

Jun 22, 2016 - 12:30am

The Climate Institute today released its Climate Policy Credibility Assessment which shows Australian community support for action on climate change and renewable energy is at its highest levels since 2008. The research also found gaps between community and mainstream business views and the policies of our political parties, which is risking economic and social instability.

Climate Institute CEO, John Connor, said the research, which included national Galaxy polling, showed that there is now a clear opportunity for government to work with community and business desires to move forward with constructive climate change and energy policies that are both effective and economically beneficial.

“Since the 2013 election, voter concern about climate change has surged almost 20 per cent to 72 per cent, a marked rebound from the lowest levels just prior to introducing the carbon pricing mechanism in 2012,” he said.

Concern and support for action is highest among the 35 per cent of people uncertain about who they will vote for. Only 17 per cent think the Coalition has a credible climate plan, with Labor only marginally higher at 20. Only eight per cent think ignoring climate change is an answer.

“Our research shows that all our political parties need to do more to develop policies that not only build credibility but also build community and investor confidence,” Connor said. “This is a critical finding, given that both major parties are promising key reviews next year amid greater domestic and international scrutiny. To that end, it is encouraging that The Coalition, Labor, Greens and Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) now all support emissions trading and renewable energy, albeit to varying degrees. At the same time, the largest climate policy credibility gaps are with the Coalition and Jacqui Lambie Network.”

Connor said the polling revealed that two thirds (65 per cent) of Australians think Australia should be a world leader in finding solutions to climate change, the highest since 2008, yet current policies make us international laggards. Almost three quarters think tackling climate change will create opportunities for new jobs and investment, including 67 per cent of Coalition supporters.

“Despite supporting the Paris agreement and its goals to avoid 1.5-2°C of global warming, if other countries adopted similar targets as the Coalition, it would lead to 3-4°C warming; Labor’s would see 2-3°C; NXT 2-3°C; while the Greens and Glenn Lazarus Team (GLT) are more aligned to the Paris goals,” he said. “The 2030 emission reduction targets of the Coalition, Labor, NXT, the Greens and GLT would have Australia ranking 18 th, 15th, 10th, 8th and 8th in the G20 respectively on an emissions per person basis.”

Connor said uncertainty about climate change and energy policies were not only deferring the inevitable transition to clean energy, but guaranteeing massive disruption to energy jobs, prices and supply as climate realities force us into this transition. He said the winning party will have to quickly get real and develop durable, scalable policies that minimise climate risks and maximise clean energy opportunities rather than do the reverse.

For this to happen, The Climate Institute recommended three key policy steps: 1) Pre 2050 net zero emission objectives, with credible emission reduction pathways and regular independent processes of review; 2) Economic and community strategies to manage the transition to decarbonisation, and; 3) Integration of climate risks and opportunity assessments into core decision making.

“After ten turbulent years, Australian business and the voting public have tapped into international trends about the economic and environmental benefits of climate action,” Connor said. “Our main political parties urgently need to catch up.”

For more information download The Climate Institute's 2016 Pre-election polling results Factsheet and Climate Policy Credibility Assessment or visit our Election page to see all associated content.

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Brinsley Marlay ● Media Manager ● 0422 140 555

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