Australia climate strategy may shift under new US president — expert

Photo by David Clode.

When U.S. president-elect Joe Biden takes over the White House, Australia climate strategy will likely shift as the country may face constant criticism in its inaction toward climate policies, wrote an expert.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has “benefitted from a cosy relationship” with the Trump administration, as Australian governments tore up climate policies and failed to implement new ones, said Dr Christian Downie, fellow at the Australian National University. 

Climate change, on the other hand, was one of the pillars of President-elect Biden’s campaign. His trade agenda supports carbon tariffs on carbon-heavy imports. His camp also aims to spend $2 trillion on green economy investments, such as green hydrogen, zero-emission vehicles and decarbonizing heavy industry.

With the U.S. as Australia’s third-largest trade partner, Australia is expected to significantly increase its ambitions under the Paris agreement and commit to a net zero emissions target.

“Should the US start hitting Australian goods with a carbon fee at the border, you can bet Australian business won’t be happy, and Morrison may begin to re-think his domestic climate calculus. 

And what political science tells us is if international pressure doesn’t shift a country’s position on climate change, domestic pressure certainly will.”

 Dr Christian Downie, Australian National University

Australia climate strategy is likely to shift its trade priorities towards a net zero economy if it were to continue trading with its partners who have pledged to reaching net zero by 2050 and 2060. 

Anna Malos, policy manager at ClimateWorks Australia, recently said:

“Japan, South Korea and the European Union have committed to reaching net zero by 2050, and US President-elect Joe Biden says his administration will make the same pledge…

That means the vast majority of Australia’s exports are going to trading partners who have committed to transform their economies. This will result in a shift in demand from high-carbon products and services, such as thermal coal, towards zero or near zero carbon alternatives, such as renewable hydrogen.” 

Climateworks australia

Dr. Andrew Steer, CEO of World Resources Institute, said in a statement that in Biden’s first 100 days, he can expedite the energy transition and restore rules and regulations that protect public health and the environment. 

“By re-entering the Paris Agreement on Day One, President-elect Biden can boost confidence in international cooperation and begin to restore U.S. standing in the world.

CEO of World Resources Institute

Biden is expected to work with Congress to act on enhancing climate resilience, reducing emissions, and expanding clean energy, according to Steer.