The men in power who have stalled Australia's climate action

The men in power who have stalled Australia’s climate action


The Nationals have finally agreed, in-principle, to a net zero emissions by 2050 target, after a two-hour party room meeting on Sunday.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the Nationals have agreed to a “process going forward” towards a 2050 emissions target. “Obviously, that is dependent upon what we see in the cabinet submissions reflecting the conversations between myself and the Prime Minister,” he said on Sunday.

The exact details of the Nationals’ terms of agreement are not yet clear to the public, although it has been reported that Resources Minister Keith Pitt will be elevated to a cabinet position.

As we wait for more details of the deal, ahead of Scott Morrison’s upcoming trip to Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, we thought we’d give you a quick reminder of some of the men who have stalled Australia’s progress on climate action over the past eight years.

Barnaby Joyce

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has been a central figure in the Coalition’s inaction on climate change over the past eight years. Just last week, he claimed that the Nationals would not be “held hostage to what other people wish” when it came to whether the party would support a net zero target.

On Christmas Eve in 2019, Barnaby Joyce posted a video to Twitter, saying that we needed to accept God’s plan for climate change, and said he wanted the government – of which he is a member – “out of his life”.

“Now you don’t have to convince me that the climate’s not changing, it is changing and my problem’s always been whether you believe a new tax is going to change it back,” he said.

“I just don’t want the government any more in my life, I’m sick of the government in my life.

“And the other thing we’ve got to acknowledge is there’s a higher authority that’s beyond our comprehension – right up there in the sky – and unless we understand that it’s got to be respected, then we’re just fools, we’re going to get nailed.”

And let’s not forget his staunch opposition to the previous Labor government’s price on carbon. Way back in 2012, Joyce falsely claimed that a carbon tax would push the price of a Sunday roast to $100.

Scott Morrison

Prime Minister might be heading to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, but that doesn’t mean he’s always been on board with the need to take action on climate change.

When he held the role of treasurer, Morrison famously brought a lump of coal into the federal parliament to mock talks about a transition to renewable energy.

“Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal,” he said, holding the coal in his hands, before passing it to Barnaby Joyce, who was sitting on the front bench as part of the Turnbull government. The lump of coal was then passed through the hands of Coalition frontbenchers before being passed to backbenchers.

George Christensen

Nationals backbencher George Christensen has long projected views that climate change is not real, and reportedly attended the Nationals party room meeting on Sunday wearing a “support coal” T-shirt.

In 2014, Christensen compared commentary about the need to act on climate change to the premise of a disaster movie plot. “In Australia, we have crossed that point where the horror genre is descending into a comedy,” he told a conference hosted by the Heartland Institute in 2014.

“It’s hard to tell the difference between an alarmist claim about global effects and the basic premise of a disaster movie plot.”

Matt Canavan

Matt Canavan, one the Nationals’ staunchest pro-coal advocates, has consistently denied the need to act on climate change. In 2018, he told school children who attended a school strike for climate action that that protesting would lead them to be unemployable.

“The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue,” he told 2GB at the time. “Because that’s what your future life will look like, up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge for your life and getting a real job.”

Craig Kelly

Before his switch to the crossbench, Craig Kelly was one of the Coalition government’s loudest climate deniers. He has frequently referred to those who are concerned about the climate as “alarmists”.

In January 2020, Kelly appeared on a UK breakfast television program to discuss Australia’s bushfire emergency, and said there was no long term data to back up assertions from scientists that the climate was warming. He was expertly shut down by host Laura Tobin, who told him: “You have the second highest carbon emissions per person on earth and you are burying your head in the sand. You aren’t a climate sceptic you are a climate denier.”

Keith Pitt

Resources Minister Keith Pitt, the man expected to get a cabinet position after the Nationals agreed in principle to a net zero target, could not bring himself to say whether climate change was “real” or not last week.

“The climate’s changing, it’s always changed Fran,” he told Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast last week. He then noted that he doesn’t believe Australia can make “one iota” of difference on global climate action.

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