Client Alert

Australian Elections and Potential Impact on Climate Legislation


In elections this past weekend, Australians voted out the long-ruling conservative coalition in favor of Labor candidate Anthony Albanese. Albanese wants to end Australia’s reputation as a climate outlier, while manufacturing renewable products, e.g. batteries and increasing mining of green minerals, e.g. lithium. He also campaigned on a pledge to reduce Australia’s emissions by 43% by 2030, with a goal of net zero by 2050.


Why it matters: Following multiple elections that have featured climate change as a flashpoint, this election marks a potential paradigm shift in Australia’s policies.

  • Strong showings for independent and Australian Greens candidates along with polling indicated that climate change played a key role in the election despite it being downplayed by the Albanese campaign and by the incumbent prime minister Scott Morrison.
  • The country is one of the world’s leading coal and liquified natural gas exporters, and Morrison was seen as an ally of the fossil fuel industry.

Context: Australians have experienced a string of climate change-related disasters in recent years, from unprecedented wildfires and heat waves to record flooding and coral bleaching throughout its iconic Great Barrier Reef.

What’s next: In his victory speech Saturday, Albanese signaled Australia’s days as a climate policy holdout may be over. “Together we can take advantage of the opportunity for Australia to be a renewable energy superpower,” he said.

  • The Greens, which could hold significant sway in the new government, are calling for an end to all new domestic gas and coal projects.

Albanese will be under pressure to go even further than his campaign pledges on climate when the new parliament meets in June. While it’s possible Labor will win a lower-house majority of at least 76 seats, it’s also likely he’ll need to negotiate with the Green party and a slew of climate-warrior independent lawmakers who want more ambitious targets in order to pass any legislation. The Greens and the mostly female independents, who displaced some high-level conservative ministers by campaigning on curbing emissions, capitalized on growing anger over a series of climate-change disasters and the ongoing bleaching of the iconic Great Barrier Reef.

Labor currently has no plans to put a price on carbon, and emissions reductions will largely be delivered through energy efficiency, agricultural offsets and expected increases in renewables. Fugitive emissions of gas from coal mines and petroleum wells, largely a function of Australia’s fossil fuel exports, are forecast to remain roughly constant throughout the coming decade.

Mr. Albanese flew to Tokyo on Monday for a summit with the leaders of Japan, India, and the US, known as the Quad. As he will be representing Australia as its prime minister, he will be sworn into office before his departure. Albanese will use this trip to send a message that there is a change of government and that there will be a change of policies, e.g., climate change.