• Australia pulls back from legislating Paris targets as energy policy contributes to the fall of yet another prime minister

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

Political calculations and manoeuvrings in Australia have led the federal government to step back from legislating its Paris Agreement commitments, and also triggered the fall of another prime minister. Climate and energy policy has been a political handgrenade for close to a decade in Australia, with the first victim being the then opposition leader, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2009. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was another victim in 2010, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard the third victim in 2013. It was also a factor in the downfall of Prime Minster Tony Abbott in 2015, who gave way to his old foe Malcolm Turnbull. As recently as early August, it appeared that the ‘climate wars’ in Australian politics were over, with the federal government agreeing its National Energy Guarantee policy, which included an emissions reduction target, with the states. However, Prime Minister Turnbull, with a parliamentary majority of just one seat, had been experiencing relatively poor opinion poll results, giving encouragement to rebel members of his party to refuse to support the legislating of the Paris Agreement targets. The refusal triggered a leadership contest within the ruling coalition of the Liberal and National parties, which Mr Turnbull won, but a second leadership contest followed the same week, in which Mr Turnbull did not even participate. (The new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was not part of the earlier leadership contest, which was against an ally of Mr Abbott, the immigration minister Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton was subsequently described by one commentator as “not being able to organise a one-car parade”.)  In short, it appears the climate wars are not over, and so far Mr Morrison, famous for bringing a lump of coal into parliament on one occasion and telling his fellow politicians not to fear it, has not spoken of emissions reduction targets, instead talking of reliability and cost. But it is hard to resist the conclusion that the leadership manoeuvrings within the government will result in the opposition Labor party, more supportive of climate change action, gaining power in the next federal election, which at the latest will be next May.